Marlon Byrd and, to a lesser degree, John Buck, both had surprising seasons with the Mets. Few predicted that Byrd would have any kind of success, and virtually nobody could have imagined that the outfielder would set a career high in home runs (21), hit a solid .285/.330/.518, play above average defense in right field, and be worth 3.5 fWAR over the course of his time in New York.
Buck surprised us early in the season, slugging nine home runs and driving in 25 batters in the first month of the season before cooling down. Despite the fact he was slightly below average offensively (84 OPS+), his defense behind the dish was seen as marginally above average, and as a result, Buck was worth 1.4 fWAR to the Mets.
Though neither is still with the team, having been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates today, the duo have one last surprise in store — who they were acquired in exchange for (though, certainly, that has more to do with Sandy Alderson than anyone else). Along with cash, Byrd and Buck were traded for Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later. So, just who is Dilson Herrera?
Born in Cartagena, Colombia, Dilson claims to have been a Pittsburgh Pirate since he was 12, because he had caught the attention of Renee Gayo, the Pirates' director of Latin American scouting, at an early age (Gayo, as many might remember, was a central player in the Miguel Sano age inquiry scandal). Sure enough, in 2010 the Pirates signed the 16-year-old Herrera, giving him a $220,000 signing bonus. At the time he was considered an advanced hitter for his age, had the potential to be a plus baserunner, and decent power potential, despite standing only 5'10".
Ben Badler of Baseball America said of Dilson that "he's a natural hitter with a good swing who is difficult to get out because he doesn't have many holes" and that "he manages his at-bats well, [using] the whole field with an up-the-middle approach". Because he signed late in the year (August), Herrera did not play organized ball with any Pirates affiliate in 2010.
Pittsburgh assigned Dilson to the Venezuelan Summer League in 2011. The 17-year-old fared well in the 65 games he played in, hitting .308/.414/.472. He exhibited patience at the plate (12.3% walk rate), hit for a bit of power (19 doubles, five triples, three home runs), and stole 16 of 24 bases he attempted. Although he was signed as a shortstop, the organization felt he would be better suited moving from the position, so he spent the majority of his time playing third base. His arm strength was below average for a shortstop, but his quick reaction time and average-to-above-average speed profiled better at second or third base. Though he was a switch hitter in his amateur days, the Pirates had him bat exclusively from the right side to maximize his power potential.
In 2012 the Pirates brought Herrera stateside, assigning him to the Gulf Coast Pirates of the Gulf Coast League (Rk). Spending all of his time at second base, Dilson hit .281/.341/.482 in 53 games. Though his plate discipline declined (7.9% walk rate), he demonstrated more pop — he hit seven home runs — and became more selective on the base paths, improving his stolen base success rate to 73%. At the end of the year he was promoted to the State College Spikes of the NY-Penn League (A-) for a handful of games.
Herrera was assigned to the West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League (A) to start the 2013 season. To date, he has played 109 games with the Power, hitting .265/.330/.421. While there are definitely many positives to take from his season — he is holding his own as a 19-year-old despite being nearly two years younger than the league average, and displaying double-digit home run power — there are also some negatives. His plate discipline has taken a huge step backwards. Though he is still walking at roughly the same clip that he had in 2012 (7.7% walk rate), he is striking out with troubling frequency (23% strikeout rate). To his credit, Herrera was featured in the 2013 All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field, one of two Pirates represented.
Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com ranked Herrera as the Pirates' 11th best prospect going into the 2013 season in his 2013 Prospect Watch article, and listed the young second baseman as the 9th best prospect in all of baseball at that position. John Sickels ranked Herrera as the Pirates' 9th best prospect going into the 2013 season in his Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 Prospects for 2013 list on MinorLeagueBall.com. He gave the young Colombian a B- grade, citing his plus power for a middle infielder and for a kid his age. In his Pre-Season Prospects in Review article, Mr. Sickels stood pat with his grade and opinion.
Presumably, Dilson will start the 2014 season with the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League (A+). With the graduations of Wilmer Flores and Travis d'Arnaud from the prospect lists, Herrera will likely be one of the Mets' top hitting prospects and possibly one of the team's Top 10 prospects overall. While this trade is not of the magnitude of the Carlos Beltran-Zack Wheeler swap, Dilson Herrera is an impressive haul, and will bolster the farm system immensely.