Odubel Herrera: The First Piece of the Future

I am honored to be taking over for Eric here at Crashburn, this site has always been a place I looked up to. I am excited to work alongside the talented writers here and to keep the tradition of high quality analysis going into another Phillies season.

2017 will mark the Phillies’ first season without members of their 2008 core. The Phillies are not without veterans, and they are not without players who have been with the team for a number of seasons. What they lacked was any tangible direction for the future. This offseason the Phillies made their first long term commitment to their new core, signing Odubel Herrera to a long term contract.

Herrera has easily been the Phillies best player the past two seasons. Last year he turned a fairly fluky season as a Rule 5 draft pick into a sustainable All Star level contribution. He did it in a bunch of different ways, and that gives him still more upside.

In his first year in the majors a few numbers stood out for Odubel Herrera:

5.2% BB%

24.0% K%

.387 BABIP

9.9 UZR/150 – 11 Rdrs/yr

Odubel was an aggressive hitter who didn’t walk and seemed to just luck into a ton of singles. Luck might be a bit extreme, but even with a 23.5% line drive rate his first year, a BABIP of .387 would be insane to project for anyone. In the field the metrics said he was really good, but it was hard to not see his circuitous routes in center as anything but a liability. If you were to ask how Herrera could make himself a better player, your answer would include something along the lines of walk more, strikeout less, and add enough other skills to deal with the BABIP and defense regression. So here are those same statistics, but this time from 2016.

9.6% BB%

20.4% K%

.349 BABIP

3.3 UZR/150 – 6 Rdrs/yr

Herrera saw huge wins in plate discipline in 2016, and that holds true even if you throw out his insane April where he walked 22.1% of the time and only struck out 17.3% of the time. The increase in plate discipline coupled with an uptick in power allowed him to survive the nearly 40 point drop in BABIP to post an identical OPS+. His defensive metrics said he was worse in 2016, but by the eye test he was a better defender, and he could legitimately return to his 2015 value.

Before getting to the best thing about Odubel Herrera, I want to talk about a couple more numbers. The first is his batted ball data. Herrera is Top 5 in the league at hitting the ball the other direction. When he does it, it has a high rate of being a line drive and consequently a high rate of being a hit. The opposite part of this is that Herrera has shown that he has raw power, but it is to his pull side. If Herrera changes up that ratio, he could start to see his home run numbers trend up even more, but the price will come at the expense of his batting average.

The other thing is his stolen base numbers. In the first half of the 2016 season, Herrera was Cesar Hernandez on the bases, going 12 for 19 on stolen base attempts in 89 games. Over the second half of the season Herrera was 13 for 13 on stolen base attempts in 70 games. The consequence was a nearly 3 run swing in baserunning value between the two halves. If Herrera can become a high percentage base stealer, he will make the Phillies lineup much more dynamic.

Odubel Herrera the statistical baseball player is not the full reason why the Phillies committed as much as $50 million dollars this offseason. Odubel Herrera the baseball player is someone they can market the new look Phillies around. He is everything that has been fun about the World Baseball Classic this year rolled up into one crazy haired center fielder. Baseball is fun to him, he bat flips walks and then applauds himself down to first base, the small bits of the game can excite him. He is a player in constant motion, always with a smile on his face. He is a player the Phillies can build the future around, and while he may be surpassed as the best player on the team as soon as this season, he will still be the first player the Phillies declared to be a long term part of what they want to be.

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  1. Dante

    March 21, 2017 08:43 AM

    Good stuff Matt, and welcome!!

    So does Herrera or Cesar bat leadoff? Both had nice improvements with walks last year, have only a little pop, good speed, and line drive/groundball tendencies.

    • Matt Winkelman

      March 21, 2017 10:13 AM

      I think for now Herrera is the Phillies #3 hitter and he might stay there for a while. Cesar draws walks at a similarly high rate and has less power so the marginally more ABs you would get for Herrera are probably offset by his times with people on base. I could see Herrera move up the order again if the Phillies move on from Hernandez and acquire another middle of the order bat, but for now Herrera is their best hitter and is hitting 3rd

      • Dante

        March 21, 2017 10:35 AM

        I’d be concerned about the 2 hole being too weak if Hererra is batting 3rd. My thought was using the following lineup against righthanders:

        Kendrick (Coghlan?)

        And the following against lefties:


  2. Mike Fassano

    March 21, 2017 09:03 AM

    On a whim, I looked up Roberto Clementes’ stats for his first two years, and Herreras’ numbers are almost identical, and in some cases even better. Both were Rule 5 picks. I suspect that the Phillies lack of offense for the past two weeks is because Odubel wasn’t in the lineup. He brings an energy to his team that doesn’t show up in any box score.

    • Romus

      March 21, 2017 04:27 PM

      Have to agree.
      His skill level and added enthusiasm does raise the excitement level a notch.
      And if he can play annually at a minimum bWAR4 he could be one of the best Rule5 pickups ever…maybe not in the Clemente/Jose Bautista stratosphere but maybe at the Manny Trillo, Bobby Bonilla or George Bell level.

  3. B

    March 21, 2017 10:08 AM

    Welcome aboard Matt. Great post! Let’s get the season started already!

  4. Chris S

    March 21, 2017 10:56 AM

    Welcome Matt! Great first article and I have to say I’m cautiously optimistic about this season. It will be a nice change of pace to the baseball season to see a team that can at least be competitive in most games this season!

  5. Tom

    March 21, 2017 06:08 PM

    Herrera is my favorite Phillie but he may not end up as a piece of the Phillie’s future. We have three guys that may be capable of playing an above average CF in Altherr, Quinn and Williams. With Hererra’s very team friendly contract the front office will have some very interesting and challenging decisions going forward as how to maximize their value. Herrera may be the easiest to move and the one who might bring back the biggest overpay from the other teams.

    • Edwin

      March 21, 2017 06:15 PM

      I concur. The one thing about this front office that we are learning is they are lining things up for the future. Herrera, Hernandez and even some others that we may perceive to be the future may only be short term solutions. Herrera has great upside but that only makes him more of a trade chip considering the depth at his position and the future needs of the club i.e. top line pitching.

    • Steve

      March 22, 2017 12:59 PM

      Altherr and Quinn are huge question marks at this point. Herrera could play as a CO, althought hia power is very “fringy” there. His contract definitely makes him an appealing trade candidate to other teams. I think an ideal scenario is that everyone stays healthy and progresses and we have Quinn, Herrera, Williams in the OF by the end of 2018. That could be a young, cheap, dynamic OF.

  6. Ryan

    March 22, 2017 08:22 AM

    Welcome, Matt! Very happy to have you. I’ve always enjoyed reading your stuff and I’m looking forward to becoming a regular reader again for the first time since Corinne was running things.

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