To the surprise of many, the Mets have called up their top offensive prospect Dilson Herrera. We've all heard lots about the 20-year-old slugger in this his breakout season. However, with excitement high for the debut of the next young wave of homegrown offensive talent, what can we realistically expect from the diminutive infielder?
Well, to help us understand that we need to fully understand what he's done to this point:
The Pirates signed Dilson Herrera out of Colombia at the age of 16 for the price of $220,000. He was considered one of the better international prospects of that class and was one of the club's top three signings of the year. Said Pirates Director of Latin American Scouting Rene Gayo: "Dilson is a player we have been scouting since he was 13-years-old."
More Dilson Herrera
The View From Behind the Backstop: Dilson HerreraWhat can Mets fans expect from the crown jewel of the Marlon Byrd trade?
More Minor League Mets
Herrera showed good promise in a couple of seasons of rookie ball in Pittsburgh's system, nabbing the organization's Gulf Coast League player of the year award in 2012. Specifically, his surprisingly potent bat belied his compact physical build, though at that point it was unclear if he would develop enough offensive to play every day at the highest levels. Pirates brass responded by aggressively pushing the teenager to the South Atlantic League in 2013 where he starred as one of the youngest players at that level -- a common theme throughout his career.
In the midst of a strong campaign for West Virginia, Herrera was introduced to Mets fans as part of the return in the fateful deal that sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck to Pittsburgh. His new club sent him to Savannah to cap a strong season in the SAL where he ended up batting .267/.334/.416 with 11 home runs and 14 stolen bases.
That brings us to 2014, which has been a revelation in terms of development for the young infielder who we ranked number nine on our preseason top 25 prospects list. Starting the year in Advanced-A St. Lucie, Herrera quickly showed that he was up to the test against more advanced pitchers. In 67 games he batted .307/.355/.410 while also effectively implementing the organization's more patient philosophy.
Excitement for his quickly developing bat came to a head when Herrera was promoted to Double-A Binghamton and thrived. A refined swing seemed to work wonders, even against upper minors competition. His strikeouts plummeted while his power continued to emerge despite the fact that he was the youngest player in the Eastern League. Through 61 games he batted an outstanding .340/.406/.560 with ten home runs and nine stolen bases. The kid who had begun the 2014 season as an emerging sleeper would seemingly end it as a top prospect with a serious chance to be an everyday major league regular, possibly more.
Today, scouts are bullish on his long-term chances. Here's what Baseball America had to say back in July:
"Herrera may not have a single knockout tool, but the 20-year-old Colombian does many things well and has made the jump to Double-A in the second half without a misstep. In fact, he hit .320 and ranked third in the minors with 139 hits at the end of July, thanks to a quick swing and plenty of hard contact. He has enough power, speed and control of the zone to profile as a big league starter at the keystone."
Further, ESPN's Adam Rubin recently quoted a scout that deemed Dilson 'equipped' for the next level while fellow Worldwide Leaderite Keith Law stated that "if [Herrera] ended up on a few All-Star teams, I wouldn’t be shocked.'
In terms of what to expect, the general consensus seems to be somewhere between average regular and something slightly more. In the past I've compared Herrera's best case to a pre-decline Danny Espinosa, expecting something in the neighborhood of the Washington infielder's 2012 campaign where he hit .247/.315/.402 with 17 home runs and stole 20 bases, while also striking out a fair bit. At this point I think that's a fair baseline, including Espinosa's strong glove at second base with the ability to capably handle short, if need be.
That said, Herrera's standout 2014 has some reaching for more. As BA pointed out Herrera's tools rate good, not great across the board; however, what we're witnessing this season -- most likely thanks to a shortened swing and a more patient approach -- is that his hit tool may in fact be better than we thought. Take his .340 mark in Binghamton -- the last age-appropriate (at or below the league's average age) Mets farmhand to post that high an average at Double-A (min. 200 PA) was none other than David Wright back in 2004 (others to do it include Jay Payton and Gregg Jeffries).
While 15-to-20 home runs may be more of a peak projection, Herrera may have it in him to post a .300 batting average once he gets his feat underneath him at the major league level. As for these early days of his career, it's really anyone's guess. I will say that based on the extreme bat speed and the obvious momentum he's been riding all summer, I'm pretty optimistic that Herrera will transition quickly -- perhaps giving Sandy Alderson the confidence to once again actively shop Daniel Murphy this winter.
In short, we're talking about a potential 3-5 WAR player if things continue to go right for Herrera and the Mets -- and if this season has been any indication, Mets fans have reasons to be very optimistic.