Name: Danny Herrera
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: October 21, 1984
If – or when – Danny Herrera reaches the majors, he would become one of the shortest pitchers to toe the rubber in big league history. At 5-foot-8, 145-pounds, Herrera has been proving doubters wrong since his collegiate days at the University of New Mexico.
Herrera was honored as an All-American after his junior season at New Mexico. The left-hander posted a 10-0 record with a 2.24 ERA in 17 starts for the Lobos. Pitching in the notoriously hitter-friendly Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, Herrera believes the experienced helped prepare him for professional baseball.
"I've been playing in hitter-friendly parks all through college," said Herrera in late-May. "My experience in New Mexico helped me learn to be a ground ball pitcher. I did that a lot last year and I'm doing the same this year."
After his outstanding collegiate season, Herrera announced he would return to New Mexico for his senior year. But the Rangers took a flier on him anyway, drafting him in the 45th round. The club was eventually able to convince the southpaw to sign a professional contract.
"We negotiated a higher signing bonus," replied Herrera. "It eventually got to where I was comfortable with signing, so I went ahead and did that."
Herrera's debut campaign was phenomenal, as he was virtually unhittable with High-A Bakersfield. The Odessa native notched 53.1 innings and allowed just eight earned runs on 39 hits. He walked 12 and struck out 61.
Because of his diminutive size and below-average fastball velocity, the Rangers elected to move him to the bullpen for the 2007 season. Though he still prefers starting, Herrera has begun to enjoy his role in the bullpen.
"It's great to be put into different situations – ahead, behind, or tied," he said. "It's pretty intense as far as the situations I get thrown into. To me, it's not as enjoyable as starting, but I'll get it and do what I can with it."
One aspect of relieving Herrera enjoys is the ability to bounce back from a poor outing quickly.
"It's a big load off my mind when I can go out and throw well again," said the 23-year-old. "It's a big relief for me and just my state of mind to be able to go out the next outing and do well."
The lefty's 2007 season contained its share of peaks and valleys, but after holding opposing hitters to a .232 batting average at Double-A Frisco, he was generally satisfied with the performance.
"I feel like [my season] is going pretty well," said Herrera in late-August. "I'm glad I got up here to Frisco. I'm glad that I could be a part of the bullpen and help this team win. As far as my season personally, I think I could have done better as far as ERA and walks. But for the most part, I think I've done pretty well."
Repertoire: Fastball, Changeup, Slider.
Because he doesn't have the velocity that other top prospects possess, Herrera often relies on location and movement. That generally isn't a problem for the lefty, who gets exceptional movement on all his pitches and generally has outstanding control. Herrera's fastball clocks in at just 83-86 MPH, but his dominant changeup is one of the system's best pitches. The pitch has a 12-to-6 break, ranges between 55-60 MPH, and has screwball-like action. The 23-year-old struggled to command his two-seam fastball late in the season with Frisco, leading him to rely on his little-used four-seamer more often. Herrera can also mix in a decent slider.
Projection: The left-hander's velocity and diminutive size make his ceiling relatively low, but Herrera has excelled at each stop in the minors to date. Herrera won't overpower anyone with his fastball, but he is able to keep the ball low in the zone and his changeup is a legitimate big league strikeout pitch. Although Herrera is left-handed, his changeup makes him especially tough on righties, as they batted just .222 off him in Double-A in 2007 (.143 in the Arizona Fall League). Herrera doesn't project to be much more than a situational reliever in the majors, but there is an excellent chance that he will be able to fulfill that role in the near future.
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