2017 Phillies Report Card: Odubel Herrera
The overall numbers for Odubel Herrera this season are not particularly inspiring.
A 100 wRC+, while impressive for a Gold Glove-caliber fielder, represent a step back from where Herrera was in his first two seasons. Over nearly 1200 PAs between 2015 and 2016, Herrera, fueled by a 110 wRC+, produced 7.7 WAR. That placed him in a virtual tie with Dexter Fowler for tops among National League centerfielders.
I should note that Herrera’s season-long wOBA hasn’t varied much for a player viewed to be inconsistent. The past three seasons, his marks have been .333, .338, and .329. Considering the relatively small dip in wOBA and the notable dip in wRC+, that should demonstrate the extent to which the league is tilting towards offense in the post-Juiced Ball era.
That raises an interesting question: has the league somehow already passed Herrera by in just his third season? There will always be a place in the league for an average hitter with defensive chops, but perhaps he’s not the building block we had thought.
Some of you may have repressed Herrera’s horrid start to the season, so as a reminder, take a look:
As putrid as Herrera’s early season was, the rest of the season was that impressive. Herrera optimists would have you ignore the early season struggles, as the real Odubel is the bat-flipping, double-smashing baller who roamed centerfield in the second half, while Herrera pessimists would point to an immature hacker whose abilities are built like a house of cards.
Like almost everything in life, the answer is somewhere in the middle. The reason Herrera is so divisive among Phillies fans is that, as I mentioned earlier, Herrera is considered inconsistent, and this graph bears that out:
Each season thus far has a spectacular peak and a ghastly valley. He’s capable of greatness and ineptitude, and thus far he’s shown both every year.
What I see is a player with dizzying ability entering his physical prime. Three years seems like a long time, but it’s easy to forget that Herrera was rushed to the Majors due to the nature of the Rule 5 draft. He’s not like Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, or JP Crawford who could wait until they were ready to enter the league, and he’s been great anyway.
It’s something of a lazy comparison, but Herrera reminds me of Shane Victorino. Everyone loved Shane (perhaps because he was Hawaiian, not Venezuelan, but I digress), and in his Phillies tenure, he produced a 108 wRC+ and 4.1 WAR/150 games in his age 24 through 31 seasons. The fact that his Phillies career finished so strong obscures the fact that he was simply good early in his tenure.
In Victorino’s first three full seasons, he produced a 97 wRC+ and 9.8 WAR. Herrera, meanwhile, is at 107 and 10.5. There’s no guarantee that he’ll continue to progress the way Victorino did, but he’s starting from a hell of a baseline.