Daniel Murphy’s mental and physical blunders, particularly evident in the Subway Series, have Mets fans calling for a new second-sacker, most frequently in the form of 21 year-old Colombian Dilson Herrera.
Herrera rates as a consensus top-100 prospect in baseball, ranging as high as No. 46 on MLB.com’s list to as low as No. 82 on Baseball Prospectus’ 101. But just how good is the Mets young second baseman? Can he become an All-Star, as Keith Law predicted, or is he more destined to be a solid starter. Most importantly, how much better can he be than Murphy?
Offensively, Dilson Herrera has the bat-speed to make scouts drool. His lightning quick hands should allow him to hit for a good batting average accompanied by solid-average power at the major league level. In a cup of coffee last season with the Mets, he showcased that potential, posting a .710 OPS and three home runs in just 18 ballgames.
But at only 5 foot 10 and 150 pounds, there is only so much quick hands can compensate. And so far in his minor league career, Herrera has struck out in almost 20 percent of plate-appearances while walking in only 8 percent of at-bats.
There’s value in an aggressive, slap-heavy approach, plus Herrera has improved his discipline in Vegas thus far. But in comparison to Murphy, Herrera’s power and patience seem about equivalent.
Dilson couples strong offensive tools with strong minor league numbers. Across three levels last year, Herrera mashed his way to a .323 batting average and a .858 OPS.
He’s continued his hot hitting this year at Triple-A Vegas, batting a scorching .371 and absolutely murdering lefties (1.300 OPS).
Of course, we have to put an asterisk next to any statistic in the hitters haven of Las Vegas. But with a career .301 average in more than 1600 at-bats, Herrera has a long track record of minor league success. Plus, he’s still managed to bat .311 on the road this year.
But as Herrera appears ready to contribute to the Mets on the offensive side of the ball and does have some speed (23 steals in 2014), his defense leaves a lot to be desired out of a middle infielder. Last year, Prospectus reported that South Atlantic managers felt the youngster’s actions were “stiff” in the field, and Minor League Ball’s John Sickels concurred in August.
Still, the general agreement is that Herrera’s bat justifies his defensive limitations. However, I am not so sure that is the case.
Consider this clip taken from Matz’ no-hit bid last Friday night. (courtesy MiLB.TV)
Former Mets prospect Nick Evan bounces a routine ball to second, but Herrera looks far from smooth on the play. First, instead of attacking the ball, he sits back on his heels and lets the ball play him, forcing an awkward jump into the air. He then makes an indecisive move towards second base before showing off an incredibly weak sidearm throw to first.
Here’s another grounder to second during the same Vegas-Reno ballgame. Herrera does not commit any egregious mistake this time, but he demonstrates that he is not entirely comfortable at second base. He makes a nice backhand stab, but then showcases more awkwardness with bad footwork and a double-clutch. He finishes off the play with the same weak sidearm toss we saw before.
For those holding out hope that Dilson can play shortstop and the Mets can move to second, that has to be ruled out as a long-term option at this point.
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Herrera is by no means a terrible defensive second baseman, but I have serious concerns regarding his footwork, arm strength, and overall level of comfort at second base.
He still has plenty of time to improve, but as the Colombian also committed 21 total errors last season, I have a hard time believing he’ll ever be more than adequate in the field.
Verdict — How Good Will Herrera Be for the Mets?
In conclusion, I see many similarities between Murphy and Herrera. Tool-wise, both players have quick bats, a strong offensive skill-set but also a weak defensive profile.
These similarities are reflected through minor league statistics as well. Murphy and Herrera’s career minor league OPS only differs by 20 points, and Murphy’s minor league fielding percentage was actually 50 points better than Herrera’s.
Murphy and Dilson can both handle second base to a degree, but it’s hard to argue that each player has the instincts and fluidity to ever become a solid infielder.
Dilson Herrera will be a good big league player, but expecting him to be a significant upgrade over Murphy is asking him to underwhelm. He might not commit the same mental mistakes as Daniel has this season, but considering the course of Murphy’s entire career, I would expect these two players to produce a similar career output.Sep 2, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; New York Mets second baseman Dilson Herrera (2) fields the ball during the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Remember, that is not necessarily a bad thing: Murphy has produced 10.8 WAR in seven seasons with the Mets. Just temper your hopes for Dilson when he finally gets a chance at a starting role: he will be good, but he may not be that good.