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2017 Phillies Player Preview: Can Odubel Herrera get better?

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Herrera was the team’s lone All-Star in 2016.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies-Media Day Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Three years ago, Odubel Herrera was a 22-year-old infielder trying to make his way through the Texas Rangers AA affiliate. The Phils liked what they saw in the youngster, and after the Rangers left him exposed in the Rule 5 draft, GM Ruben Amaro snapped him up and made him their everyday center fielder.

That’s one of the things you can do when your team is terrible and you’re burning everything to the ground.

Three years later, the Phillies phoenix is slowly rising from the ashes, and Odubel Herrera is now a mainstay in Philadelphia.

He signed a five-year extension in the off-season that will pay him $30.5 million. He was the team’s only All-Star a year ago, and he’s perhaps their most consistent and productive offensive player.

Not bad for a Rule 5 pick.

Seriously, could Odubel Herrera’s first two seasons have gone any better? I mean, the Phils got this dude for NOTHING.

Odubel Herrera 2015-16

Season G PA HR SB BB% K% OPS wRC+ fWAR
Season G PA HR SB BB% K% OPS wRC+ fWAR
2015 147 537 8 16 5.2 24 0.762 111 4
2016 159 656 15 25 9.6 20.4 0.781 110 3.8

His WAR and wRC+ totals weren’t terribly different between 2015 and ‘16, but in just about every other category, Herrera got better last year. His walk-rate jumped from 5.2% to 9.6%. His strikeout-rate fell from 24.0 to 20.4%. And he doubled his home run totals to 15, from 8. Consider that his career high in the minors was 5, in 2012.

Herrera did hit a little bit of a rough patch last July, posting a wRC+ of just 69 during that month. His June (95) and August (94) numbers weren’t awesome either, but he finished up with a .306/.370/.469 slash line and a 127 wRC+ in September.

Keeping in mind he was just 24, that’s pretty impressive, and came in addition to him playing an above average defense in center field.

So what are reasonable expectations for Herrera as he enters his age-25 season? Are there areas for improvement? Or is the status quo all we should expect? If we wanted to save ourselves some angst, setting expectations low would probably be smart. After all, that’s where most of the projections (which normally skew conservative) are headed for Herrera.

Odubel Herrera 2017 Projections

Projection HR SB AVG OBP SLG wRC+ wRC+
Projection HR SB AVG OBP SLG wRC+ wRC+
Steamer 12 20 0.273 0.34 0.402 99 2.5
ZiPS 11 20 0.281 0.34 0.408 101 3
PECOTA 12 17 0.273 0.33 0.399 N/A 2.2

If those projections were to come true, Herrera’s 2017 would certainly be considered a disappointment, and I think he’ll exceed those numbers. I’m also bullish that Odubel will improve in one other area, too.

The dingers.

There are 20 home runs somewhere in that bat, and a 20-20 season isn’t a crazy notion. I mean, when you can hit a ball like this...

...you know...

...there is...

...more power.

And of course everyone is desperately hoping for more taters from Odubel, if for no other reason than the gorgeous bat flips they will produce. Let’s just hope he saves them for the fair balls, not the foul ones.

And hey, even if more power doesn’t come, Herrera is still likely to keep bat-flipping all those walks, which is fine and dandy in and of itself.

Odubel Herrera is the first Phillie of this core group that we know is going to be around for a while. He’s been remarkably consistent over the last two years, and I see no reason why he won’t continue to be as good as he has been.