To say that this has been a lost season for Odubel Herrera would be a major understatement. Now as the Phillies slump towards the end of their regular season, it appears that the 26-year-old outfielder is mailing in his repeatedly poor performances.
Since June 25, a period now covering nearly three full months, Herrera has fashioned a pitiful .193/.257/.322 slash mark. Over the 64 games in which he has appeared during that time he has produced just 13 extra-base hits, driven in just 20 runs, and scored only 23 times.
His hitting ability isn’t the only facet of his game that has been lacking. The player who stole 41 bases over his first two big-league seasons has also disappeared. Herrera has stolen just one base over this entire stretch.
Herrera’s defensive game has also collapsed. Over the first few seasons of his career he demonstrated an ability to go get the ball in center field. There were occasional errors of both omission and commission, but those were frequently written off to his continued adjustment from second base, where he played most in the minors, to the outfield.
But this year the mistakes have gotten more frequent, at times embarrassing, and he simply isn’t covering the same ground. Whether there is some physical reason behind it or he is just not hustling is difficult to determine.
Here at Phillies Nation, or own Tim Kelly wrote a piece on Herrera last month in which he commented on the defensive troubles:
“Between 2015 and 2017, his first three years as a center fielder, Herrera graded out as the fourth best fielding center fielder in baseball. However, in 2018, Herrera’s defensive metrics have fallen off of a cliff. FanGraphs says that the former Gold Glove Award finalist has been just the 15th best fielding center fielder of 17 qualified options in 2018. He has a -7.2 defensive WAR, a -9.0 UZR and -10 defensive runs saved.”
Now as the Phillies struggle to the 2018 finish line, Herrera is reaching new lows. Over 13 September games he has slashed just .105/.209/.132 and has not driven in a single run.
This horrible season has finally begun to affect his playing time. Manager Gabe Kapler has turned in a starting lineup that includes Herrera’s name in only about half of the Phillies games during this final month.
Herrera has a contract that commits just $23 million to him over the next three seasons, with a $2.5 million buyout on a fourth year. That might make him attractive trade bait for some team that might view this season as an aberration and may feel that a change of scenery would light a spark.
At this point it is difficult to imagine the Phillies counting on Herrera as a starting outfielder for the 2019 season. With Rhys Hoskins hopefully moving back to first base, the club may need to plan on replacing two of this year’s starting outfielders. If you think Roman Quinn can remain mostly healthy, you would need just one new starter.
Fortunately, a player should be available in a couple of months who perfectly fits what the Phillies need right now. A 35-40 home run, 100+ RBI, middle-of-the-order bat who also gets on base and plays solid defense.
That player would be Bryce Harper, who Kapler recently said “might be the best player in baseball.” With plenty of money to spend, the Phillies are considered one of the leading contenders to land the pending free agent.
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