There have been good Rule 5 picks made by the Phillies: Dave Hollins was an All-Star, Clay Dalrymple was the best defensive catcher of the 1960s per FanGraphs, and Shane Victorino won Gold Gloves, had huge playoff hits, and helped the Phils bring home a World Series.
There have been bad Rule 5 picks made by the Phillies: Michael Martinez is among the Majors’ worst players with a career .187 batting average.
There’s even the ones that got away: before becoming Phillies by other means, Manny Trillo and Willie Hernandez both were Phils farms hands that were taken away in the Rule 5 draft, as was George Bell.
Odubel Herrera has the potential to be the best Rule 5 selection the Phillies have ever taken.
Lost in a sea comprised of outstanding rookies, Herrera led all NL rookies in batting (.297), finished second in doubles (30), fourth in runs scored, and tied for first in stolen bases. Among Phillies that qualified for the batting title, Herrera led the team in batting average, OBP, and OPS. More importantly, on a team that won only 63 games, Herrera was worth 3.9 of them by himself, or about 6% of their wins per FanGraphs, providing outstanding defense alongside his offensive outburst.
Herrera came to the Phillies through the Rule 5 draft, selected from the Texas Rangers. Herrera had spent most of his time in the minors as a middle infielder, fueling speculation that either Chase Utley and/or Jimmy Rollins would be traded. Rollins would be traded eight days later, but it had nothing to do with Herrera. No, despite playing mostly middle infield in the minor leagues, Herrera was about to become the Phillies’ everyday center fielder.
Herrera played 147 games for the Phillies, all in center field, despite speculation that he would be used in multiple positions, particularly with the existence of incumbent center fielder Ben Revere on the roster. Herrera made his mark fast, hitting .301 in April, including a walk-off double on April 11. However, success seemed fleeting, as Herrera hit just .202 in May. From July 1 on, however, Herrera was on a different level, hitting .335/.393/.467 with six homers and eight steals, stat line inclusive of a walk-off 10th inning single on July 22:
Herrera’s game was not without holes, however. He struck out 129 times, over 24% of the time, an insanely high amount of strikeouts. Additionally, Herrera had an unusually high batting average on balls in play, leading all Major Leaguers in the stat, indicating that Herrera had some pretty decent luck. And finally, Herrera stole 16 bases but was caught eight times for a 66% success rate, under the 75% breakeven threshold accepted by most baseball observers.
Still, Herrera was easily the Phillies’ best offensive player and provided a much-needed spark from out of nowhere while playing league-average or better defense at a position he played just two minor league games at in the High-A Carolina League in 2014. He provided a spark during the dog days of summer in the worst season in recent Phillies’ history. You can certainly expect some, possibly major, regression next season for Herrera but for 2015, there was no better Phillie.
Grade: A. Herrera was the best positional Phillie offensively and defensively in 2015 and that isn’t an award he gets just because he is the best on a very bad team. Rather, Herrera, who is graded on a curve for being a rookie who had not played above Double-A and had played just two games in minor league baseball at center field, was among the National League’s best center fielders in 2015.