Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Face of the Franchise: The 2017 Player Preview of Odubel Herrera

At one point this offseason it looked like Odubel Herrera was trade bait. Instead, the Phillies signed him to a new 5-year contract, thereby making him the face of the franchise.

This is the first in a series previewing the 2017 Phillies. We start with Odubel Herrera because, as we said, he's the face of the franchise. He's an All-Star and has an 8 WAR since being plucked from the Rangers in the 2015 Rule 5 draft. Let's look at our expectations for 2017.

Herrera is quickly becoming one of the best Rule 5 picks in history.

What we know

In our 2016 preview, we said we hoped he would end up with a WAR of 3-4. He was coming off a strong season and we thought a goal was to see his strikeout rate down to 22 percent and his walk rate up to 7 percent. We also said we'd like to see him have a better stolen base percentage while swiping at least 20 bags.

Guess what! Our bat-flipping hero went from 16 to 25 stolen bases and was caught just 7 times, one fewer than in 2015. His strikeout rate dropped to 20.4 percent and his walk rate went from 5.2 to 9.6, an astounding increase.

He finished the season with a .286/.361/.420 slash line and a 111 OPS+. He did this while holding down a .349 bapip.

Here's what we know. After two big league seasons, Herrera has proven his batting average and on-base percentage will be above league average, he will put up solid defensive numbers.

I'm not entirely sold he will hit 15 homers again. He had just one more extra-base hit than he did in 2015. It's entirely possible he just had a few balls carry more than he did last year. The trade off is I don't think he'll ever hit just 21 doubles again.

What we'd like to see in 2017

Coming off an All-Star season and signing a 5-year contract means expectations are raised for El Torito. Flair and Flash is fun. But he's got to keep up the production. Here's what we'd like to see in 2017

Extra-base hits: Herrera hit 21 and 42 doubles the last two seasons. I don't think it's a stretch to hope he would hit 45-50 extra-base hits this season. That means he'll have two do two things. The first is that he can't have any more prolonged slumps. No full months in which he hits .227. The second is that he has to continue to grow his knowledge of the strike zone, Cut down on the swings in which he goes outside the zone. A mix of 38 doubles, 12 homers and six triples would be worthwhile.
Base running: Do we know where Herrera will hit this year? He spent 76 games in the leadoff spot last year, 38 in the two hole and 23 batting third. Of course he'll bat In the top 3. I could see him batting leadoff or third. Leadoff means he should have a chance to steal 30-35 bases. Batting third probably means he stays in the 25-30 range. Either way, he should have a goal of an 80 percent stolen base mark. Anything below 75 is a failure. Herrera took an extra base 41 percent of the time last season. That's a number that could improve a bit, especially with the offensive improvements around him.
Strikeouts: Strikeouts aren't as bothersome to most people. Herrera, however, has some tools - particularly his speed, but also his gap power - that benefit the team if he makes more contact. It's doubtful he would lose a lot of power if he cut his strikeout percentage below 20.


Health: It's a given; but we still need to say it. The Phillies need Herrera to play in a minimum of 140 games. They have to hope for 155 or more.
On-base percentage: Herrera went from .344 to .361. He can't fall below .350. If he pulls off a .350 OBP he'll be solid. If he can get it to .370, the Phillies will be very happy. If he stays above .380, the team will be ecstatic.
Runs: With his on-base capabilities, speed and an - at least expected to be - improved offense around him, Odubel should score 100 runs this season. If he pulls that off, there's a good chance the Phillies will beat expectations.