.251/.340/.332 214pa 0hr 0.3 WAR A-
2012 in brief: Minor league vet none of us had heard of electrified with hot start before predictably cooling and heading back to Triple-A.
2013 status: Will fight for a bench job in spring, but likely headed back to the minors until injuries arise, and it’s easy to think that we’ve already seen the best of his career.
You want expectations? Here’s expectations. When we learned that Elian Herrera was on his way to Los Angeles in the middle of May, the question wasn’t just “why?” (it turned out to be because Matt Kemp was headed back to the disabled list), it was “wait, who?”
First things first, who the hell is Elian Herrera? I’ll admit that I know very little about him, other than that he’s a 27-year-old Dominican who signed with the Dodgers back in 2003 and made his stateside debut in 2006. He climbed slowly through the organization, not playing more than 70 games in a season until 2009, and is basically considered organizational depth, thought of as a complete non-prospect, if he’s even thought of at all. As far as I know, he’s never been mentioned on any prospect lists ever, and even Brandon Lennox, writing at TrueBlueLA this offseason, ranked him as the #117 overall prospect. No, not in the entire minors; in the Dodger organization.
While he’s shown a decentish ability to take a walk, he has just about no power, and would likely be a total zero at the plate at the big league level. What he does have going for him, however, is versatility, as he’s played every position other than catcher in his career; at Albuquerque this year, he’s mainly been playing second base and hitting leadoff.
Herrera, of course, got off to an otherworldly debut, doubling in his first start and collecting three hits in his third. By the end of May he was hitting .314 and had made starts at second, third, and center field; in June, he became the everyday third baseman for the first half of the month before shifting to mostly outfield work.
By June 16, Herrera was hitting .296/.395/.388 and Jon Weisman of the dearly departed Dodger Thoughts was compelled to note the historical impact of Herrera’s start:
In fact, in the 55 seasons of the Los Angeles Dodgers, only 19 players have notched at least 100 plate appearances in their first season after turning 24. And of those 19 players, so far, Elian Herrera (who added two doubles and three RBI Friday to his magical 2012) has a higher on-base percentage and adjusted OPS than any of them.
Sure, he had a .397 BABIP at that point, and sure, everyone knew there was no way it’d last, but damned if it wasn’t fun. The next day, Herrera had three hits in a game more remembered for famous sons Dee Gordon & Tony Gwynn teaming up to walk off against the White Sox on Father’s Day, but that was the final peak of his season. He’d start 15 more games over the next three weeks, but managed only nine hits in 67 plate appearances (.141/.179/.234) and was sent down just prior to the first game of the second half when Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, & Juan Uribe were all activated.
Herrera returned briefly for two games in mid-August, then returned in September to serve as a pinch-hitter & runner, save for two starts in left field when Shane Victorino was banged up. All in all, his line of .251/.340/.332 isn’t much to look at, particularly when you remember his unsustainable hot start is factored in there, but that barely even matters. You can’t say that Herrera did or did not outperform his expectations because he had no expectations; this was a player we never even briefly considered for a moment. If, as seems likely, his May/June burst is the peak of his career, we’ll remember him fondly; when the Dodgers were desperate and badly needed some energy, he was able to provide it. For that alone, Herrera’s 2012 can’t be considered anything but a major success.
Next up! Ha, it’s funny because it’s Ivan De Jesus.