In Odubel Herrera’s first three years in the major leagues, he has 142 XBH. In the same time frame of their own careers, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle had 144. I was going to save that gem for later in the post, but life is short.
Herrera had another good year in 2017: .281/.325/.452, 14 HR, 42 doubles, 3 triples, 8 stolen bases. Although it was his third straight year of solid to elite offensive output, it wasn’t a perfect season. His poor month of May is well documented, he halved his eye-popping walk total from 2016 (63 to 31 with only 21 fewer AB), and he missed some time in August with a left hamstring strain. But now, even though there still exist some who would use part of their time on earth to deride the outfielder who hit the second most doubles in the National League this season, recognition is coming straight from the league office.
The Hank Aaron Award is given to the player who exhibits the “most outstanding offensive performance in each league,” and this year, Herrera is the Phillies’ nominee. Part of that is due to his objectively impressive output. Part of that is due to the Phillies having a shortage of hitters who qualify. And while their last place finish seems to indicate there was a shortage of offense—I’ve spent plenty of time in the month-to-month offensive split archives and let me tell you, it is quite easy to despair, there are a lot of skeletons down there—other players probably could have gotten away with a nod. Cesar Hernandez, for one. And... really no one else (Obviously, Rhys Hoskins comes to mind, but with only a month and a half of baseball under his belt, that wasn’t going to happen, regardless of how much history-making he packed into it).
The award’s recipients will be announced during the World Series following a selection by a committee hand-picked by Hank Aaron: Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Craig Biggio, Ken Griffey Jr., Eddie Murray and Robin Yount.
Next year will be Herrera’s fourth in Philadelphia, and things will be different. The Phillies will see their expectations slightly elevated, if that’s what you call it when people stop demanding you to finish in dead last so you can pick the most talented teen in the draft. Perhaps their .500 record won’t be isolated merely to the season’s second half. Herrera is supposed to play a key role in that offense, though his style of “piss everyone off until someone screws up” may take a hit due to a potential new MLB rule that keeps batters from stepping out of the box. Even Dave Roberts, manager of a team playoff-bound by July, was screaming at Herrera from the Dodgers’ dugout to get in the batters box during a series in September.
But there’s a reason Herrera is considered by most to be a part of the future: his consistent production (not to mention defense, but that’s a whole other award) has made him one of the most effective Rule 5 draft picks ever. As Hank Aaron’s Elite Legends Squad formulates their decision, we can only hope they take the truly meaningful stats into consideration: