Name: Odubel Herrera
Position: Second Base
DOB: December 29, 1991
Acquired: 2008 International Free Agent
Infielder Odubel Herrera signed with the Texas Rangers for a reported $160,000 bonus during the summer of 2008. At the time, Herrera showed good tools––including some athletic ability, a strong arm, and a quick bat––but he was quite raw.
The Venezuela native was particularly raw as a defender when he began his professional career. But the Rangers felt they'd be able to mold him into a solid defensive prospect with some seasoning.
Herrera worked as the Dominican Summer League Rangers' everyday shortstop during his professional debut in 2009. Though not as advanced defensively as fellow middle infield prospect Santiago Chirino, the club wanted to maximize Herrera's reps in the field to improve his defensive game.
Predictably, his debut campaign in the field was a rough one. Herrera committed 34 errors in 51 games at shortstop for an .863 fielding percentage. But in a 2010 interview with then-Surprise Rangers manager Jayce Tingler, the coach said Herrera really began to improve as the '09 season progressed.
"Odubel's progress started in the second half of (2009)," Tingler said. "He had a lot of the errors in the first half. We forced him to play short, and he continues to get better. He's starting to get the ability to slow the game down a little bit and to make plays.
"Really, for almost the last year now, he's played a pretty steady shortstop––played a pretty steady defense. A lot of those errors happened at the beginning of last year. We're hoping he continues to grow, especially defensively, because he really has an ability to hit."
Herrera has continued to grow defensively. Just two years later, those massive defensive struggles appear to be a distant memory. The middle infielder now looks advanced for his age in the field, showing strong instincts to match his above-average tools.
Playing as the Single-A Hickory Crawdads' everyday second baseman last year, Herrera committed only 16 errors in 113 games––a .969 fielding percentage. He also appeared in five games at shortstop.
The 20-year-old prospect hasn't needed as much development with the bat. While he has a somewhat unorthodox swing, Herrera entered the organization with a compact stroke and quick hands. He batted .280 with a .399 on-base percentage in the DSL during his debut season. Then he stood out by hitting .337 for the Surprise Rangers the following year.
The Rangers challenged Herrera with the assignment to Hickory last year, practically skipping him above short-season Spokane, but he once again excelled.
For the season, the left-handed hitter posted a .306/.349/.394 slash line with 26 doubles, three triples and three home runs, drawing 24 walks and striking out 78 times. He was also a factor on the base paths with 34 stolen bases in 45 attempts.
Herrera did what any young prospect should ideally do during the course of a season––he improved with each month. He became arguably the Crawdads' most consistent hitter––aside from Sally League MVP and teammate Jurickson Profar––while batting .339 in the second half, including a .361 mark in August.
Also See: Rangers All-Prospect Teams (November 8, 2011)
Batting and Power: As mentioned, Herrera's swing mechanics are a bit unorthodox, but he gets the job done with a quiet load, short path to the ball, and very quick hands. He's an aggressive line-drive hitter with at least a potential solid-average hit tool. Home run power will likely never be a big part of Herrera's game, but he should hit his share of doubles. The prospect shows good present gap-to-gap pop due in part to that line drive stroke, quick hands, and strong wrists. Though his frame is a bit stocky, he's a good athlete with strength. Herrera showed the ability to consistently hit the ball with authority last season.
Base Running and Speed: The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Herrera has above-average speed and is one of the organization's more polished lower-level base runners. Despite his youth, he reads pitchers and picks his spots well, which led to 34 stolen bases in 45 tries over 119 games last season. He's also an aggressive, disruptive runner who lets his presence on the base paths known and often looks to take the extra base.
Defense: Herrera isn't far off from actualizing his plus glove projection at second base. He's an all-around smooth defender with developing skills to complement his good natural tools. His quick reflexes help him cover plenty of ground, and he has above-average arm strength for any spot on the infield. The Venezuela native has improved his footwork and hands over the last three seasons, as well. With the physical ability (read: arm strength and range) to play at least an adequate shortstop and third base as well, the Rangers may begin getting him looks at the other infield spots over the next couple years. He has the chance to become a versatile defender, though he's at his best at second base.
Projection: Herrera's high-energy style and disruptive play both at the plate and on the base paths make him a fun prospect to watch. Probably best described as a scrapper with some legitimate tools, he has the absolute ceiling of an everyday-caliber second baseman. The prospect provides a good hit tool with some gap-to-gap pop, the speed and skills to be a factor on the bases, and a potential plus glove at second. Herrera profiles best as a second baseman, but he should also have the ability to fill in at shortstop and third base when needed. While he has everyday potential, his most likely ultimate role could be as a utility man who can provide a little bit of everything.
2012 Outlook: After hitting .339 during the second half with Hickory last season, Herrera will almost certainly advance forward to High-A Myrtle Beach out of camp in 2012. Though it's a highly pitcher-friendly circuit, the 20-year-old's offensive skills should be mature enough to enable success. He's likely to spend the entire season in the Carolina League, but a late-season promotion to Double-A Frisco––if he's having success––isn't out of the question. Herrera has a fairly mature skill set to go along with his intriguing tools.
|2009||DSL Rangers (DSL)||.280||207||9||0||24||47||21/31||39||39||.399||.333|
|2010||AZL Rangers (RK)||.337||178||7||0||31||33||8/13||16||27||.394||.421|
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