In the prospect world, we like to use the term helium for a player whose fictitious stock is rising fast, and perhaps no player in the minors had more helium this year than Dilson Herrera. His promotion to the majors serves as the culmination of an incredibly fast journey through three levels in the Mets system (and skipping over one).
Acquired last season from the Pirates in the Marlon Byrds/John Buck deal (along with Vic Black), Herrera was on the radar of the prospect landscape, but no one seemed to believe he’d be a guy the Pirates would miss too dearly. One year later, it looks like the Pirates will miss him more than we had thought, but it's still be too early to tell if he’s a guy the Mets can plan their future around.
Herrera’s call-up comes as a surprise, not only because he’s only 20, started the year in the Florida State League and is skipping Triple-A, but also because he is very much still an athlete learning how to play baseball. That was noticeable during spring training, when his bat speed was hindered by an inconsistent bat path and a loop in his swing that caused far too many weak pop-ups and fly balls.
Just a month later at the start of the season, there was a noticeable difference in his swing path. Now his plus bat speed was being put to better use, barreling the ball up with greater consistency and driving the ball with more authority than would normally be expected from a player of his 5-foot-10 stature. With his more consistent mechanics at the plate came a better approach that has led to more walks and fewer strikes, and as a result, better pitches to hit and more power. A promotion to Double-A, the toughest test along the minor-league journey, proved only to accelerate this progress.
Defensively, Herrera fits best at second base and is overmatched at shortstop. He is a premium athlete with good range, though he can be inconsistent on routine plays. It’s his arm, however, that keeps him on the right side of the infield long term. The Mets lack of a live, competent shortstop might force Herrera to play out of position for now, but his arm will be overmatched on some of the longer throws at the position. He’s a good enough defender, however, to play at second base regularly, assuming the bat warrants such playing time.
In March, Herrera looked like a premium athlete who was still learning how to use that athleticism effectively on a baseball field. He had the ceiling of an everyday player if it all came together, and a possible role as a utility man if the bat didn’t progress as needed. That progress came sooner and more swiftly than anyone might have anticipated, but the improvements were legitimate and noticeable from week to week. It was impressive to watch throughout the year.
That does not, however, change his ceiling. Herrera should offer decent pop for a second baseman and will offer value as a baserunner, but will likely settle in as an average to slightly above-average defender. He’s not going to be an impact, middle-of-the-order bat and despite his impressive progress and production this season, there could be a steep learning curve. There’s no reason Herrera can’t be an everyday second baseman in the major leagues, but there’s also a decent chance he starts next season back in Triple-A and continues the progress he made this year. —Jeff Moore
Fantasy Impact: To date Herrera is most well-known for his inclusion in the trade that brought Marlon Byrd to Pittsburgh during their first playoff run in two decades, so you’re forgiven if he wasn’t exactly on the fantasy radar prior to his call-up. Those in deeper leagues were likely familiar after he was highlighted as an “On The Rise” player prior to the 2013 season, and would go one to produce well for a 19-year-old making his first appearance in full-season ball.
While he was always consigned to the right side of the infield, his knack for making hard contact has endeared him to scouts. That ability shone through as he’s blown through multiple levels this season, first slashing .307/.355/.410 in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, and then recording a .333/.401/.544 slash line in Double-A. Perhaps most impressive is that Herrera was able to nearly double his walk rate from 5.8 percent to 10.6 percent while going from High-A to Double-A. His strikeout rate increased as well, but at 18.6 percent it wasn’t unwieldy for a player with his bat-to-ball ability.
With a calf strain sidelining Daniel Murphy, the Mets have opted to reward Herrera’s impressive season and give the coaching staff a look at the youngster. It’s difficult to imagine that Herrera would be called up only to ride the bench, and so he should be in line for the lion’s share of playing time at the keystone until Murphy returns. With only 30 games left to go, that’s a mere 120 at-bats or so, and he’s likely only going to contribute in batting average and stolen bases in the near term, if at all.
If you’re going to grab Herrera, it should be as a speculative stash for the 2015 season, as he’s a limited contributor at this point, and that’s if he can avoid the steep learning curve of the major leagues. I wouldn’t expect more than a few dollars worth of value for those in FAAB leagues, though given the stored FAAB in many leagues, there’s probably a premium for anyone that’s new and exciting. If you’re desperate for stolen bases, it’s unlikely that someone else becomes available in a league where Herrera is worthwhile, so it makes sense to add some dollars there as well. I wouldn’t bother bidding more than $5 or so on pure value though. He can be ignored in shallow mixed league and is probably only bench material/injury fill-in in 16-team mixed leagues and shallower. —Craig Goldstein