From being an international free agent signing in 2008, to an MLB center fielder in 2016, Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera has had quite the ride in his professional career. That ride culminated during last night’s MLB All-Star selection show, where it was revealed that “Bubble,” as his teammates call him, was named as a National League All-Star.
Herrera, 24, signed with the Texas Rangers as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2008. The 16-year-old began his professional career in the Dominican Summer League, and took his time progressing through the Texas farm system. Herrera was initially viewed as an infielder, but began playing outfield on occasion in 2014. Herrera would win the 2014 Texas League batting title before being named the Most Valuable Player of the Venezuelan Winter League that year.
Herrera was stuck behind an abundance of infielders, and never made it past the Double-A level with Texas. Opportunity knocked, though, on December 11, 2014, as the Philadelphia Phillies selected Herrera with the eighth overall selection in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft. As a result, Herrera was guaranteed either a roster spot in Philly, or he would be returned to the Rangers organization. Following the selection, then-Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said that they saw Herrera as an intriguing prospect. Amaro believed that he could develop into a solid major league player, and that he “fit the bill” of what the team was trying to do.
Herrera was named the Phillies starting center fielder for Opening Day in 2015. He recorded his first major-league hit that year against the Washington Nationals, a walk-off double. Herrera’s playing time was reduced one the Phillies moved Ben Revere back to center field, however. It wasn’t until the team traded Revere that Herrera reclaimed his role as the starting center fielder. He finished the 2015 season hitting .297/.344/.418 with eight home runs, 41 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases. The major knock on him, though, was his K:BB ratio which stood at 129:28. Over the offseason, Herrera worked on his discipline at the plate.
This year has served as a breakout season for “Bubble”. His plate discipline has shown major improvement, and it’s been obvious in his stat line. To this point, Herrera is hitting .302/.388/.441 with 10 home runs, 32 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, and a .829 OPS. His improved plate discipline has also resulted in a reduced K:BB ratio of 63:43. His overall improvement from the 2015 season has put Herrera on pace to set new career-bests in nearly every major offensive category, and has seen him go from a relatively unknown prospect to a force atop the Phillies lineup.
Herrera gradually made his way through the minors, before getting an opportunity in Philly. He took that opportunity, and has made the best of it. He’s developed into a solid center fielder, one heck of a leadoff man, and now an MLB All-Star. Following a slow start to his career, Herrera is making up ground — quickly. The career of Odubel Herrera just goes to show that all you need is one chance to prove what you can do.