Base running blunders, outfield mistakes, and not hustling are all things used to describe Odubel Hererra. With those flaws comes a tremendously talented baseball player who just needs to get in the right mental state.
A phrase I’ve started to love is recency bias. Basically, if you don’t know, recency bias is defined as “the phenomenon of a person most easily remembering something that has happened recently, compared to remembering something that may have occurred a while back.”
Odubel Hererra criticism falls under that. Hererra took a step back in 2018, and with the emergence of Roman Quinn late in the season, it is easy to see why fans could start having doubts about ‘Dubes.
People seem to forget that Hererra’s first two years were flat out phenomenal. In fact, Hererra’s first half of 2018 was *cough cough* ALL STAR WORTHY. But, because of recency bias, this is hidden behind Roman Quinn’s success and Odubel’s mental errors (that are a cause for concern, don’t get me wrong).
Odubel showed promise with a very successful rookie season after being stolen from the Texas Rangers in the 2014 Rule 5 draft. Hererra proved he could be a building block, batting .297 with 8 HRs and solid defensive flashes.
Hererra continued to show success. However every year since 2014, his batting average has dropped.
On December 16th, 2016, the Phillies signed Hererra to a 5 year extension through 2021. At that time, a long term contract was a rarity. His lack of success in 2018 is starting to have fans wonder if he should be traded. The answer: no.
Sure, he struggled mentally and physically in 2018, but he is still a cornerstone for this team.
While Roman Quinn did outplay Hererra in the second half last year, Quinn has yet to show he can be healthy for an extended period of time. I would take Hererra’s three and a half years of success over Quinn’s half a season any day of the week.
Gabe Kapler said the Phillies expected Hererra to come to camp in the best shape of his life and more effort would need to be seen. Hererra has come through on that, becoming the first player to show up in Clearwater in January (!!).
If the Phillies do end up with Bryce Harper, Hererra has to prove he can continue the success of 2014-the first half of 2018, and not fall back to the player we saw towards the end of last season.
While hitting is important, a very big (and simple) step would be to avoid any mental errors. The Phillies will be competing for a playoff spot this season, and games cannot be lost due to mental mistakes or outfield blunders. Hererra single-handedly lost the Phils a game last season in Boston with a mishap in centerfield and a base running mistake.
I expect Hererra to return to his former self that we were accustomed to. Kapler will have a short leash with ‘Dubes, especially if Roman Quinn is performing and/or Bryce Harper is on the roster.
Odubel brought a .312 BA into June 1st and ended with an extremely disappointing .255 BA.
One intriguing thing about Hererra’s 2018 campaign is the HR totals. Hererra had a career high 22 even with the extreme dip in batting average, beating his previous record of 15. Typically, if a player has a significant increase in HRs, he also has an increase in strikeouts. Surprisingly, Hererra’s K totals remained relatively similar. In a pretty depressing season, those numbers are a sign for optimism.
Honestly, I feel we are in for a “boom or bust” season for Odubel. He could keep dropping in BA and have Roman Quinn take over as the full time center fielder, or he could return to his all-star level that we are used to.
Roman Quinn’s success could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Gabe Kapler confirmed Hererra was the starting CF, but he could roll with Roman Quinn if he has the hot hand again. At the point of Quinn’s emergence last year, the Phillies playoff hopes were diminishing. Now, with playoffs realistically in sight, Kapler will not be hesitant to pull Hererra for mental errors or lack of production.
While he has had trouble in the past realizing this, I believe Odubel knows that this is his last shot. He has already gotten off to a good start showing up to Clearwater way early. Hopefully, a productive Spring Training is in store. Hererra has to make sure to stay mentally focused throughout the 162 game season if the Phillies are going to contend.
Why yes, Hererra can be a frustrating player, but we cannot forget the success he has had. His potential to be an all-star is real. Fans forget Hererra was originally a second baseman. His transformation into a solid CF is nothing short of incredible.
While us Philly fans can be impatient, Hererra will be a test for us that I hope we pass. I am willing to live through the struggles because I know what Odubel is capable of.
2019 predictions: .289 BA, 20 HRs, 77 RBIs.
While it may be hard to defend Odubel, all Phillies fans are hoping he can figure things out. We know what he is capable of. If the Phillies want to take the next step, he has to regain that form.
Report by Jack Margolin
All stats from Baseball Reference