For the Rangers, Odubel Herrera is The One That Got Away

Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera blasted two home runs on Monday night against the San Francisco Giants, extending a career-best on-base streak to a whopping 36 games. Herrera has blossomed into a superstar for a team with loads of youth at all positions in 2018, and Monday’s game more or less summarized his transformation.

Herrera took an Opening Day scratch and has used it to inspire himself, hitting .341/.401/.537 with five home runs, 20 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 158 so far in 2018. This run of dominance has been gold for Philly, who sit a half game back of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East standings and look good enough to compete in October.

Herrera is everything. It just wasn’t always like this.

Before the master of bat flips was his flamboyant, exciting self with the Phillies, the 26-year-old was a middle-infield prospect with the Texas Rangers, trapped in Double-A with guys like Jurickson Profar and Rougned Odor in front of him in the depth chart. After being signed by Texas as an amateur free agent in 2008, Herrera played six seasons in the Rangers farm system.

After winning the Texas League batting title for the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders in 2014 (a roster that included Odor), batting .315 with 151 hits over 125 games, Herrera’s future with the Rangers was in doubt. They figured if he had any later success at the Major League Baseball level with the Rangers, it would have to come as an outfielder.

Herrera, though, was an inexperienced outfielder and an unexceptional infielder viewed as far less valuable than the likes of Profar, Odor, and others in the system. Without eye-popping power or Grade A defense, Herrera became expendable in a Rangers system flooded with top pupils.

The Rangers’ loss was the Phillies’ gain. In the 2014 MLB “Rule 5” Draft, the Phillies took a chance on a guy with little experience in the higher ranks of baseball, and with nothing to lose, came out with one of the premier players on their current roster. Former general manager Rubén Amaro Jr. said the Phillies viewed Herrera as an intriguing prospect, mainly because he “fits the bill” of what the organization planned to do; develop speed and athleticism within their lineup, as well as give younger players a chance to prove themselves.

Formerly an underappreciated, undervalued @Rangers prospect, @odubelherrera1 has materialized as an MLB superstar with the @Phillies.Click To Tweet

As per Rule 5 regulations, Herrera had to stay on the Phillies roster, and therefore started the subsequent 2015 season as number-one center fielder on the club. He appeared in the Opening Day lineup as the center fielder, one of 136 games as the middle-man in the Philadelphia outfield in a 2015 rookie season during which he hit .297, eight long balls, 41 RBIs, and stole 18 bags. In 2016, he earned an appearance on the NL All-Star team.

Over Herrera’s 477-game MLB career, all of those games coming with the Phillies, he has been worth 12.1 bWAR, 111 OPS+, and 21 defensive runs saved. Uh, hey Rangers, I think he has transitioned to center field pretty well. Meanwhile…

Texas has used Delino DeShields, Carlos Gomez, Ian Desmond, and Leonys Martin as regular center fielders since Herrera’s 2015 major league debut. DeShields, a career 4.1 bWAR player, is the only one remaining on the active Rangers roster, and just came off of a stint on the disabled list. Both regular MLBers, here’s how they stack up since their 2015 debuts:

 SLASH LINEHRRBIHITSOPS+DRS/FIELDING %
Odubel Herrera.292/.348/.4384216650411121/.985
Delino DeShields.257/.334/.3641476270864/.981

Where the Phillies are thankful for the emergence of their center field star, the Rangers have to be somewhat regretful. No one knew the lefty would ever be as good as he is now, but in hindsight, Odubel Herrera is the one that got away for the Texas Rangers.

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