2015 Phillies Report Card: Odubel Herrera

Last December, the Phillies selected Odubel Herrera in the Rule 5 draft, using the eighth pick on the second baseman from the Texas Rangers organization. Although Rule 5 draftees rarely turn out to be as successful as Shane Victorino or even Ender Inciarte, and although the Rangers had a deep farm system, it was a bit surprising when the Rangers did not protect Herrera. As a member of the Rangers’ organization, Herrera played mostly second base and finished the 2014 season in AA. Between A+ Myrtle Beach and AA Frisco, in 2014 Herrera hit .315/.383/.388. He led the Texas League in batting average and was named that league’s best defensive second baseman, according to a Baseball America survey. Herrera then traveled to his home country to play in the 2014 Venezuelan Winter League and, while transitioning to a full-time role in center field, hit .372/.432/.556 in 232 plate appearances. Herrera’s offensive outburst placed him third in the league in batting average, and fourth in on base and slugging percentage. Even with the buzz that Herrera brought with him to 2015 Spring Training, it was hard to imagine he would compile a .297/.344/.418 triple slash line in 147 games, log 537 plate appearances, play center field every day, and lead the Phillies in WAR.

Phillies Player 2015 bWAR
Odubel Herrera 3.8
Cole Hamels 2.7
Ben Revere 2.0
Ken Giles 2.0
Jerad Eickhoff 1.9
Aaron Nola 1.8
Maikel Franco 1.7
Aaron Altherr 1.7
Jonathan Papelbon 1.5
Andres Blanco 1.5

The 2015 Phillies were awful, which is why that WAR leaderboard looks like it has the makings of the bottom half of a good team. Herrera’s 3.8 WAR in his age 23 season is still impressive, and despite relatively small samples, his teammates Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola, Maikel Franco, and Aaron Altherr all showed tremendous promise in 2015 as well. Herrera’s .333 wOBA, which was 69th in MLB among qualified hitters, contributed to his being one of those very few bright spots on the team.

Now for the elephants in the room. Herrera’s defense in center field was … a project. He was an upgrade over Ben Revere, but that’s hardly an accomplishment, even though Ben Revere is adorable. Herrera (like Revere) sometimes took adventurous routes to fly balls, none more notable than the final out of Cole Hamels’ no-hitter in Wrigley Field on July 25. While the video looks bad for Odubel, he saved the no-hitter by fighting the Wrigley wind to stay with the ball. He also made a nice running catch in the 8th inning. Still, Herrera’s catch to to end the game, according to coach Juan Samuel, “almost gave me a heart attack.” Yeah, him and the rest of Philadelphia.

Herrera’s other issue was his plate discipline. While his surface stats look nice, he struck out 24.0% of the time and paired that with a 5.2% walk rate. Herrera’s strikeout rate was nearly as high as team “leader” Ryan Howard, who posted a baffling 27.4% K rate. Herrera and Howard actually walked at nearly the same rate, with Howard finishing at 5.4% for the season, and Herrera at 5.2%. Odubel’s figure was 12th on the Phillies among hitters with at least 150 plate appearances, and was 112th out of 141 qualified hitters in MLB. Herrera thusly inspires another comparison to Ben Revere, who posted a 5.0% walk rate for the season and whose offensive reputation is of a high-average hitter with a handful of walks sprinkled in for show.

That’s where the negativity and nitpicking end. Herrera’s arm strength and defense both trump Revere’s, and Herrera brings much more power to the plate. His eight home runs in 2015 belie a strong bat, and considering he hit 30 doubles too, Herrera could yoke his strength for 15 home runs next year. Odubel also can run a bit, stealing 16 bases but getting caught eight times last season. His combination of hitting, power, speed, and outfield defense are reminiscent of former Phillies Rule 5 draft pick Shane Victorino, as well as Houston’s Carlos Gomez (both of whom posted lower wOBAs than Herrera in 2015).

Herrera isn't Carlos Gomez, obviously. Still.

Herrera isn’t Carlos Gomez, obviously. Still.

Odubel Herrera was the best everyday player on the 2015 Phillies. If the team develops as planned, Herrera will never again be its best player, but he showed in 2015 that he’s absolutely part of the Phillies’ future. He’s likely earned the starting center field spot for 2016, but if not, at the very least he’s made the center field question challenging and intriguing. At age 23, having never played professional baseball above the AA level, Odubel Herrera logged the 30th-best wOBA among all qualified MLB outfielders. That’s striking, and worthy of a commensurate rating.

Grade: A

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25 comments

  1. Romus

    October 26, 2015 07:24 AM

    Odubel Herrera even though he will not win the ROY award, has a good chance to be a top finisher for a Golden Glove in CF.
    With Billy Hamilton and AJ Pollock also in the running, he should be right there.
    Herrera’s ten Defensive Runs Saved was fifth in all of baseball–ahead of 2014 A.L MVP Mike Trout.
    And his SABR Defensive Indicator of 7.3 is only .7 below Hamilton and 1.9 more then AJ Pollock for second in the NL.
    Defensively his dWAR of 1.3 was behind only Pollock’s of 1.8 and a tick better then Hamilton’s 1.1.
    So Odubel Herrera should be right there in the final voting, though my gut feeling is that AJ Pollock will walk away with the award.
    But lots to like about Herrera’s future in CF..

    • Adam Dembowitz

      October 26, 2015 09:52 AM

      I appreciate those defensive stats, Romus. I specifically didn’t go into them because it’ll take more than one season for the fielding stats to normalize and become statistically significant. But I think we can all agree that Odubel can handle CF for a while.

      • Romus

        October 26, 2015 10:19 AM

        Agree, need more of a database to really eval……2016 will be a test for him in the field and at the plate. With Roman Quinn on his tail, he will be feeling some pressure.

  2. Steve

    October 26, 2015 08:36 AM

    I fully expect Herrera to improve as he physically matures and gets more experience. Were talking about a 23 yr old who never played higher than AA and never really played OF. He ended up a contender for GG and ROY. The hit tool is there, the arm and glove are there. The plate approach and routes in the OF should all improve with time and experience. I can see him ending up as a Polanco/ Victorino hybrid, more power than Polly, but not the AVG/OBP machine he was in his prime.

  3. Michael C Lorah

    October 26, 2015 09:18 AM

    I watch a lot of Phillies games (well, partial games after I get the kids to bed) and Odubel was, for large stretches of the season, the only guy in the line-up I looked forward to seeing at the plate. I look forward to seeing how his game develops with some more experience under his belt.

    • Romus

      October 26, 2015 09:45 AM

      Agree…same here….was attracted to watching his at bats.
      Hopefully less Ks in 2016.
      I wonder if he will be playing winter ball!

      • Romus

        October 26, 2015 10:17 AM

        Hopefully him, Ceasar and Freddy G will not be sitting around a drinking their Polars and Soleras!

      • Matt Winkelman

        October 26, 2015 12:21 PM

        The news out of Venezuela is that he will be playing about a month or so of games later in the Venezuelan season (sounded like starting in November at some point)

      • Francisco (FC)

        October 26, 2015 03:46 PM

        November is a typical tarting date for Veneuzelan players that find themselves with regular MLB gigs but not so much star power that the club doesn’t want the player in the LVBP anymore so they can focus on rest and not risk injury for the next MLB season.

        BTW those are not up to date stats Adam. You might want to check out: lvbp.meridiano.com.ve/lideres/AVG.html

  4. Character Counts

    October 26, 2015 11:39 AM

    -
    -19

    Trade this guy while his value is high.
    Please no more non-hustle, pouting little boys for this last place team. If you want to act a turd, you better be hittin 40 HR’s.

  5. bubba0101

    October 26, 2015 01:37 PM

    With a strong arm and Altherr supposedly a better CF, doesnt it work better to put Odubel in right field?

    • Romus

      October 26, 2015 01:41 PM

      I think Altherr’s arm may be stronger and more accurate then Herrera’s.
      Would be nice to know what their official grading is.
      Though overall, Altherr may be a better CFer, or for that matter at any OF position.

    • Eddie

      October 26, 2015 10:20 PM

      More likely Altherr in RF, he has the best arm. Williams, Quinn, and Herrera in CF and LF.

      • Eric D

        October 27, 2015 04:21 AM

        Williams is not an MLB CFer.

      • Romus

        October 27, 2015 08:38 AM

        Keith Law on Williams…April 23rd, 2015:(prior to the trade)
        Bucky (Texas)…………….Have you heard about Nick Williams’ supposed improvements in approach? Any hope there, or would you still call him a NP?

        Klaw (1:04 PM)…………….I haven’t called him a non-prospect, just not a very good prospect. Three walks in 50 PA shouldn’t make us rethink who he is – a player with a bad approach and terrible instincts on both sides of the ball.

  6. Shawn

    October 26, 2015 02:30 PM

    Any chance he eventually moves back to second base? Seems like the outfield will definitely be getting crowded in the next couple years. If he can play solid defense at second, the bat should definitely play well there.

    I wouldn’t mind him sticking in the outfield, I guess it depends which direction the new front office wants to take in free agency this off season.

    • Character Counts

      October 26, 2015 02:33 PM

      How is the OF crowded? We want the team full of championship caliber players, not also ran hopefuls. The only player with a reasonable lock on a job on a good MLB team is Franco (Nola & Giles). All the rest of the spots are up for grabs, period.

      • Shawn

        October 26, 2015 03:01 PM

        Character Counts,

        I was just thinking with guys moving up through the minors that should be major league in the next year or two (Quinn, Williams) in addition to Altherr and then a potential free agent signing. That leaves you with five outfielders, including Herrera, which some would consider crowded.

        Obviously, those guys would need to earn playing time, but let’s say they’re all playing better than Galvis (if Crawford takes over at SS), Hernandez or Sweeney (which I don’t think is too out of the question), then do you move Herrera back to second to get those other guys in the lineup?

        And that’s why I said it probably depends on which direction the new front office wants to take this off season. If they don’t try to go out and sign a FA outfielder in the off season, then the outfield seems less crowded and Herrera stays in the OF.

      • Bad News Boars

        October 26, 2015 03:06 PM

        The other spots are up for grabs is correct. On the other hand, outfielders either with the major league team or who may be there in the next 2-3 years includes not just Herrera and Altherr, but N. Williams, Cozens, Tocci, C. Randolph et al.. If all or nearly all of them pan out then we could have 4 or 5 outfielders who may be starting caliber.

        On the other hand, just about everyone who is a second baseman on the roster seems like a second division starter at best until you get down to Kingery. If Herrera really deserved the title of Texas League’s best defensive second baseman in 2014 (and I’ve seen opinions both ways), then moving him to second is something to think about.

    • Michael C Lorah

      October 26, 2015 03:00 PM

      My guess – it’s possible, but I agree that until somebody comes up and proves themselves more valuable, Herrera will likely stay where he is. Despite our hopes for them, the outfield crowd has a lot left to prove.

      • Shawn

        October 26, 2015 03:02 PM

        Absolutely agree, I’m just surprised it’s not talked about much since.

        I probably need to stop counting my chickens before they hatch though when it comes to outfielders on the farm.

      • Character Counts

        October 26, 2015 03:49 PM

        Everything sounds rosy in the off season, but much more likely than not we’er going to end up signing some slub OF’er to fill in space when the season actually starts playing out into the dog days. aka Seizemore, Francour, Bougeswhateerhisname, etc…

        Minor leagues is minor leagues, but only a scant few will not be absolute embarrassments in the MLB stripped of all wish casting & the optimism of the unknown.

    • Eddie

      October 26, 2015 10:25 PM

      It’s possible, but remember: most prospects fail. They have about 4-5 young guys who will see outfield time in the majors in 2016. If you get two regulars out of that group, it’s success.

  7. Neil

    December 01, 2015 06:44 PM

    Why are they not considering returning Herrera to second base. They have a lot of good young outfeilders. He was once voted best defensive second baseman in the Texas league. They have nobody better at that position.

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