The 2017 Phillies season has been all about the future and player development. We’ve seen Aaron Nola transform into a bona fide ace. We’ve gotten a look at some of the top prospects who should make an impact on this club for years to come in Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro. Our MVP caliber third baseman (Mike Schmidt’s words) has dramatically underperformed.
But the most polarizing player on this team is none other than centerfielder Odubel Herrera.
One only needs to watch a Phillies game to experience everything that Herrera has to offer, both good and bad.
“El Torito” is hitting .287 for the season with 12 home runs and 46 RBI. He’s closing in on his career high of 15 home runs, and he’s sure to eclipse his career mark of 49 RBIs, which were both set last season.
The 25-year-old has been on fire since the All-Star break, hitting at a .383 clip. He currently has a career-best 17-game hitting streak, even though he sat out last night and is expected to not play today due to a sore left hamstring. During that streak, he crushed a home run that was just over eight inches off the ground.
Herrera has been a stud defensively too. He has .993 fielding percentage, good for eighth amongst centerfielders. He has five assists and two errors in 110 games this year.
It’s clear he has the talent, and he makes it exciting for fan to watch him. He was, after all, an all-star last year, which is why his inconsistency and his mental mistakes are so frustrating to put up with. Imagine where his average would be if he didn’t hit .262 in April, and then follow it up with an even worse .183 in May.
Herrera has been benched on multiple occasions the past couple of seasons for lack of hustle. If there is one thing Phillies fans won’t tolerate, it’s a lack of hustle. And the benchings seem to work, if at least for a little while. But sooner or later, we know the lackadaisical Herrera will come out eventually.
We can also look at the base running blunder Herrera made on Sunday. Herrera was on second with the bases loaded and no outs and a fly ball was hit to the outfield. Freddy Galvis, the runner on third, attempts to tag up, but retreats back to third. Herrera, assuming Galvis went, tags up. How he doesn’t see Galvis still standing on the bag is a mystery, but I can at least chalk it up to a hustle to third. Not good, but I can kind of see why he did what he did.
The issue I have with the play is he didn’t move once he got to third and realized what happened. He just stood there with his head down, defeated. Even the youngest of ballplayers would try to scramble back to second at this point. You never know what’s going to happen once you get into a rundown; the ball can be thrown away into the outfield and you end up manufacturing a run out of a boneheaded mistake.
At 25, Herrera is still young. And as a Rule 5 draft pick, he never got the full exposure and development that most players get in the minors. He has a swagger about him, and when you put a player like that on a losing ball club, it’s possible for him to lose his motivation during the course of a 162-game season. When the Phillies get back to their winning ways, I imagine the mental mistakes will start to fade away.
Last December, the Phillies signed Herrera to a five-year, $30.5 million contract, with club options for 2022 and 2023. That makes him the only player on the roster who is locked up beyond this season.
As Herrera matures and gets more experience, and the Phillies continue to improve and accelerate their rebuild, the good that we get with Herrera should only increase. It’s been almost three full seasons with “El Torito”, and if what we’ve seen during that time is an indication of things to come, Herrera will continue to be a polarizing figure throughout his career, bat flips and all.
Photo: steve_trapani (via Flickr)