In the buttoned-up corporate climate of today’s MLB, Odubel Herrera brings an outwardly notable and infectious confidence to the youth-filled Phillies’ roster.  Entering play on the 25th of May, the Phillies have shocked the baseball world by amassing a 25-21 record; in no small part due to the all-star level production of its’ 24 year-old Centerfielder, Herrera.

Philadelphia Phillies’ CF Odubel Herrera makes two spectacular running catches in the bottom of the 9th inning, ensuring SP Cole Hamels’ no-hitter against the Chicago Cubs. (Source: Colin Fitzgerald, July-25th-2015, Wrigley Field)

Odubel Herrera

Center Fielder (CF)

Bats: Left / Throws: Right

Height: 5′ 11″ / Weight: 205 lbs.

DOB: December 29th, 1991 (24 years old)

Signed as an International Free Agent: Texas Rangers (2008)

Outlook & MLB Comparisons

Odubel Herrera has blossomed into one of the most promising young players in MLB.  Overshadowed by some of the more flashy power-hitting young prospects, Herrera will hit leadoff and contribute in all areas of the game.  One of the key players on an up-and-coming Phillies team with the likes of Maikel Franco, Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola; look for Odubel Herrera to continue his breakout campaign.

MLB Comparison: Carl Crawford

One of the first things you’ll notice about Philadelphia Phillies’ Centerfielder Odubel Herrera, other than his unique batting stance, is his swagger.  Add in the elite speed to track down fly-balls within an enormous range and we have, in Herrera, a player that is eerily reminiscent of Carl Crawford in his prime.  Crawford went on the sign a 7-Year, $142 million guaranteed contract with the Boston Red Sox at the age of 29.  Herrera will be set to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2020 season, at the age of 29.

Carl Crawford
Carl Crawford, then a member of the Tampa Bay Rays is a mirror image of Odubel Herrera at the plate.  The open stance, elite speed, base stealing ability and overall confidence; it all adds up to Herrera.  (Source: NESN, May-3rd-2009, Fenway Park)
Odubel Herrera batting against Minnesota Twins pitcher Ervin Santana (Source: Fox Sports, Spring Training 2015, Centurylink Sports Complex)


Path to the Majors

Signed in 2008 at the age of 16 out of his native Venezuela, Herrera began his career in the Texas Rangers’ organization as a middle infielder.  Organizationally the Rangers had a stockpile of talented prospects at Herrera’s natural position of second base (2B), so in 2014 Herrera began splitting time between 2B and the outfield (mainly LF).  At the MLB winter meetings in December 2014, the Philadelphia Phillies selected Herrera in the Rule 5 Draft; effectively ensuring Herrera would be the Phillies’ starting Centerfielder for the 2015 season.  During the Venezuelan Winter League in 2014, Herrera went on to produce a monstroud .988 OPS on the way to being named Rookie of the Year (“ROY”) and Most Valuable Player (“MVP”).

2010 Rk-A- 209 33 0 31 8 16 28 0.332 0.386 0.417 0.804
2011 A 505 72 3 56 34 24 78 0.306 0.349 0.394 0.744
2012 A+ 551 72 5 46 27 33 99 0.284 0.335 0.382 0.717
2013 AA-A+ 527 50 3 35 17 33 86 0.264 0.312 0.345 0.657
2014 AA-A+ 545 73 2 59 21 52 91 0.315 0.383 0.388 0.771

(Source: Baseball Reference)

Assessment of Player Development

Odubel Herrera takes a pitch the other way, his first hit as a member of the Phillies in 2015 (Source: BaseballBetsy, Mar-2-2015, Bright House Field)

Herrera’s elite speed is his greatest asset, as it translates well to all areas of the game.  Though still perfecting his craft in terms of efficient routes and situational decision-making; Herrera’s acceleration allows him to chase down fly balls deep into the gap that most Centerfielders would be forced to play off the wall for extra-base hits.  On the base paths, Herrera’s base-stealing ability makes him a nuisance to opposing pitchers and catchers.

With a fluid (albeit unusually wide-open) stance, compact swing and a propensity to take the ball to the left side of the diamond, Herrera has been able to consistently bat for a high average.  An increasingly patient approach and awareness of the strike zone has been crucial to his increased production.  If Herrera is able to put the ball in play consistently enough to the left side of the diamond, he will be able to beat out many throws from infielders.

Batting Average on Balls In Play (“BABIP”) is a great metric to use to detect short term variances in hitting production.  If a player has an abnormally high batting average but is getting lucky from having poorly hit balls drop in the outfield for hits, then the player will also have a high BABIP and we can make an assumption that short-term deviations from the player’s long-term track record will eventually even out statistically.  Herrera’s BABIP through 46 games this year is .389, which might lead one to conclude that luck (in terms of batted balls falling where fielders are not) explains his early season surge.  In fact its just the opposite, as Herrera posted a .387 BABIP in 147 games last year.

So as my Grandpa might say “What’s with all of this BABIP?”  The underlying hypothesis from my perspective is that Herrera has taken a leap from his freshman season and is now coming to the plate with an excellent awareness of how opposing pitchers will try to attack him; which in turn leads to a more patient approach, more walks in 46 games than all of last season (32 to 28) and more hitter’s counts.

2015 MLB 537 64 8 41 16 28 129 0.297 0.344 0.418 0.762
2016 MLB 195 26 4 14 6 32 34 0.329 0.441 0.447 0.888

(Source: Baseball Reference)

About the Series: MLBs Next Wave of Young Stars

The wealth of talented young players in MLB today has never been rivaled; we are on the cusp of witnessing greatness in the likes of: Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.  You will be absolutely shocked if you look at a list of the current MLB stars aged 26 and younger, the sheer number of players performing at an all-star level at such a young age is staggering.

While we are all familiar with the Noah Syndergaard and Nolan Arenado’s of the league, in this multi-part series we will explore some of the budding MLB stars of tomorrow, that we may not necessarily know today.  Our first installment began in Atlanta with the Braves’ 23 year-old Centerfielder, the ultra-athletic Mallex Smith.  Next we shifted our focus to Detroit, where 24 year-old third baseman (3B) Nick Castellanos is in the midst of breakthrough season; appearing as an early AL MVP candidate for the Tigers.  In our last installment we explored the burgeoning slugger, Miami Marlins’ LF Christian Yelich.

Sources & Footnotes

Fangraphs Profile

Baseball Reference Profile

MiLB Rule 5 Story

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