2013 Dodgers in Review #18: LF Elian Herrera

90topps_elianherrera

.250/.250/.250 8pa 0 hr .222 wOBA -0.1 fWAR (inc.)

2013 in brief: Appeared in just four games during the season, two of them as a pinch hitter, and collected two hits, which is one more than Drew Butera had.

2014 status: Claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers on November 4.

Previous: 2012

*****

Hey, guess what? Writing reviews for every single player gets to be a pain, so some of our pals are going to help us out along the way. This one here is from Lobo, who says, “arrf arrf woof howl.” Thanks, Lobo!

If you had asked me before the season what the one thing I didn’t want to see happen was, I probably would have replied with “I don’t want to see Elian Herrera get significant playing time.” Ok, fine, what I probably really would have said is either “The Giants win another World Series” or “The Dodgers trade for Shane Victorino, again,” but Herrera is just a guy I did not want to see in Los Angeles this year. Why? Because as we saw in 2012, if Herrera is getting significant playing time, it means things have gone horribly, disastrously wrong.

Pictured: Things going horribly, disastrously wrong (h/t EephusBlue)

Somewhat amazingly, despite the completely unexpected collapse of Luis Cruz (/sarcasm) and the injuries to Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, etc., Herrera got into just 3 games before the All-Star break, going 1 for 3 in each of his two starts on May 8 and June 21 and failing to reach base in a pinch-hit appearance on June 20. As we all know, the Dodgers’ incredible 42-8 stretch began on June 22, so despite claims that the turnaround was caused by the brawl with the Diamondbacks or the ludicrous claims that it was due to Puig coming up and Hanley coming back from injury, I think we all know it was really due to Herrera inspiring the team to play better.

Herrera got into just one more game over the rest of the season, striking out in a pinch hit appearance against Cincinnati on July 28. One Mark Ellis flyout later, Yasiel Puig hit a walkoff homer, providing one of the season’s most memorable moments.

In case you couldn’t tell, Herrera did absolutely nothing of interest this season, and really, that’s perfectly OK. The important thing here is that the team was never QUITE desperate enough to bring him up for regular playing time (though they probably came close at some point, May and June were some DARK times). Hell, for that alone I’d give him a B even though it wouldn’t be for anything he did. The mere fact that he was never even put in a position to contribute anything positive or negative to the team is enough for me. So while Chris Jackson may miss Herrera next year, I’m sure most of us won’t give him a second thought.

******

Next! Oh, poor, poor, Matt Kemp!

Elian Herrera Is Gone Now, In Case You Cared

herrera_2013-07-28The Dodgers announced today that Elian Herrera has been claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers. I don’t particularly care about that and neither do you, but it’s that dead spot in the calendar before free agents can sign where anything that’s vaguely news-flavored is news, so there it is.

Herrera had signed with the Dodgers in 2003 and had been playing in the system since 2006, hitting .251/.336/.328 in parts of two seasons with the big team. He was awesome for those ten minutes last year, right? The 40-man roster now stands at 32.

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Projecting the Dodgers’ Minor-League Rosters: Double-A & Triple-A

Editor’s note: Chris Jackson rounds off the minor league roster projections with Chattanooga & Albuquerque. Also, don’t forget to enter the Opening Day roster contest — open through 9pm PT tonight!

Van Slyke is one of nine outfielders who will vie for an Isotopes roster spot this spring. (Photo courtesy of the Isotopes)

Scott Van Slyke is one of nine outfielders who will vie for an Isotopes roster spot this spring. (Photo courtesy of the Isotopes)

Chattanooga Lookouts (Double-A Southern League)

Starting rotation: Onelki Garcia, Zach Lee, Aaron Miller, Rob Rasmussen, Chris Reed

All prospects, all the time, in east Tennessee this year! Garcia has the most pure stuff, but the least experience. Lee and Reed will hope their potential matches the results this season. Miller will have to fight to keep his starting spot after a middling season. Rasmussen will get some attention as the new guy in the organization.

Bulllpen: Geison Aguasviva, Steve Ames, Kelvin De La Cruz, Eric Eadington, Jordan Roberts, Andres Santiago, Chris Withrow

That is a lot of lefties, but it is hard to figure out where else to put them. De la Cruz is not a LOOGY and will give them a second long reliever to go with Santiago, who could start if Miller struggles. Aguasviva could fight his way to Albuquerque. Roberts is 27, so if he can’t stick here, his time with the Dodgers may be done. Ames and Eadington figure to share the closing job, though Withrow could see saves, too, now that the Dodgers have committed to him as a reliever. Just missed: Javier Solano

Catchers: Gorman Erickson, Christopher O’Brien

Erickson will be looking for some redemption after a lousy 2012. O’Brien was decent enough at Rancho to merit the promotion.

Infielders: 1B–J.T. Wise, 2B–Rafael Ynoa, SS–Alexis Aguilar, 3B–C.J. Retherford, UTIL–Joe Becker, Omar Luna

Wise and Ynoa have played well enough to earn promotions, but they are blocked at Albuquerque barring some trades. Aguilar is the pick I am least confident in; it could be a half-dozen other guys. In other words, please, Dodgers, sign some random Cuban defector shortstop to spare the poor fans in Chattanooga watching a guy with a career .662 OPS. Retherford had a big year at Rancho, but struggled with the Lookouts, so he will return here. Luna and Becker didn’t play a lot of shortstop last year, but they sure could this year. Just missed: Chris Jacobs 1B, Elevys Gonzalez 3B/2B, Miguel Rojas 2B/SS

Outfielders: LF–Yasiel Puig, CF–Joc Pederson, RF–Blake Smith, OF–Nick Buss, Bobby Coyle

Puig and Pederson are premium prospects. They both figure to play all three outfield spots here. Smith deserves to move up, and he certainly could, but for now I have him starting with the Lookouts. Buss and the talented but oft-injured Coyle return. Just missed: Kyle Russell

Final analysis: If some of the pitchers can translate their potential into results, then this team could be the favorite to win the Southern League. The rotation is six-deep and strong, while the bullpen is strong from both sides of the mound. The outfield should carry the offense, with shortstop being the only real concern on the infield. The Lookouts should be fun to watch this season.

Albuquerque Isotopes (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)

Starting rotation: Fabio Castro, Stephen Fife, Matt Magill, Matt Palmer, Mario Santiago

Magill is the legit prospect here. Fife returns and will be the first called up in the event of an injury to a starter in L.A. Palmer can chew up innings, but that is it. Castro was terrible last year with the A’s organization and might not last long in Albuquerque. Santiago is a gamble, with the Dodgers/Isotopes hoping he can carry over the success he found in Korea last year with the SK Wyverns.

Bullpen: Michael Antonini, Blake Johnson, Hector Nelo, Red Patterson, Paco Rodriguez, Cole St. Clair, Shawn Tolleson, Josh Wall

Antonini’s health is in question, so he might not crack this group. Rodriguez and Tolleson both deserve to pitch in the Majors, but I have Javy Guerra and Ted Lilly taking the last two spots. Johnson and St. Clair return in the long relief roles. Wall should close again. Patterson moves up, but it could easily be Ames instead. Nelo, a minor-league Rule 5 pick, gets the nod over the plethora of Triple-A vets signed this off-season. I am also betting that the veteran trio of Kevin Gregg, Mark Lowe, and Peter Moylan will opt out at the end of the spring. Just missed: Juan Abreu, Victor Garate, Gregory Infante, Wilmin Rodriguez, Luis Vasquez

Catchers: Jesus Flores, Matt Wallach

Flores could easily be subbed out for Federowicz if the Dodgers opt to have the prospect play every day and the veteran back up A.J. Ellis. Consider them interchangeable. Wallach has never hit, but he plays good defense and seems like a safe bet to the backup. Just missed: Eliezer Alfonzo, Wilkin Castillo, Ramon Castro

Infielders: 1B–Nick Evans, 2B–Elian Herrera, SS–Dee Gordon, 3B–Dallas McPherson, UTIL–Rusty Ryal, Justin Sellers

Evans always earned rave reviews for his defense, which could be a big help for Gordon’s wild throws (remember how Mark Teixeira made Derek Jeter look better back in 2009?). While it can be speculated that Gordon could or should be in the Majors, until he proves otherwise, I have him here. Sellers is another guy most people are counting out, but the Dodgers have not dumped him yet, even after his arrest in Sacramento. Herrera can, and likely will, play everywhere, but he should play almost every day. McPherson will DH against AL teams, since his back is unlikely to hold up for 144 games. Ryal gets the nod because the Isotopes need the left-handed bat. Just missed: Alfredo Amezaga UTIL, Brian Barden 3B, Ozzie Martinez SS

Outfielders: LF–Scott Van Slyke, CF–Tony Gwynn Jr., RF–Alex Castellanos, OF–Jeremy Moore

Unless Castellanos returns to the infield, this outfield is tough to figure out. Both he, Moore and Van Slyke are all right-handed hitters, so it would make a lot of sense for someone like Smith (who hits left-handed) to move up from Chattanooga. Unless the Isotopes only carry seven relievers (which, fat chance), it won’t happen unless the Dodgers move Van Slyke in a trade. Moore gets that backup spot because he can play all three positions and because the Dodgers obviously think very highly of him as he was the only free agent to participate in their prospect minicamp last month. Just missed: Matt Angle, Brian Cavazos-Galvez

Final analysis: This team does not look as talented as last year’s playoff squad, at least on paper. The rotation looks awfully suspect behind Fife and Magill. The bullpen could be good, at least. The lineup lacks left-handed bats, but should be able to score enough runs to keep games interesting. If the Dodgers can’t find any additional starting pitchers, however, it could be a long summer of 12-10 scores in Albuquerque, which this reporter is not very interested in watching anymore.

Dodgers Depth Chart Analysis: Not Exactly the Keys to the Keystone

Editor’s note: Chris Jackson continues his tour of the Dodger organization with second base. It’s, uh… well, you might want to take small children out of the room. I don’t know if there’s a single future big leaguer in here.

Second base is the bastard stepchild of minor-league positions. The common refrain is that this where teams stick their weakest infielders, knowing that they will never amount to much, while the good shortstops with weak arms just end up playing the keystone in the big leagues. That mantra does not quite work, however, when looking at some of the better second basemen in the Majors.

When this guy is still your best minor-league option at second base, you know you're in trouble. (Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Isotopes)

When this guy is still your best minor-league option at second base, you know you’re in trouble. (Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Isotopes)

The Yankees’ Robinson Cano only appeared at shortstop 80 times in the minors, while playing 395 games at seond base. The Angels’ Howie Kendrick never played shortstop, instead playing 360 games at second and seven at third. Milwaukee’s Rickie Weeks was exclusively a second baseman for 208 games before being called up. Guys who did fit the stereotype of shortstop-turned-second-basemen include the Dodgers’ own Mark Ellis (351 at short, 31 at second), the Diamondbacks’ Aaron Hill (234/2) and the Reds’ Brandon Phillips (572/115).

All this really proves is that there is no way to identify who will someday become a big-league second baseman, while also showing that ignoring the guys in the minors at second would be foolish. At least in most cases, but …

Then there are the Dodgers, who have stacked up such an uninspiring group of second basemen on the farm that Ellis might as well plan out his future finances to include the Dodgers exercising his option for 2014. (Unless they go out and spend more GG moolah on free agents Cano or Hill, but there’s eventually gotta be a limit … right?)

Prepare yourselves for the big steaming pile of “meh” that awaits:

Elian Herrera: Last season’s token “out of nowhere” guy, Herrera went from .341/.381/.520 at Albuquerque to shining briefly in Los Angeles before eventually settling back into being what he is, a mediocre utility player. The 27-year-old has a minor-league career line of .285/.365/.397, with 238 games at second base, 110 in left field, 86 in center, 66 at shortstop, 60 at third and 15 in right. He pretty much is what he is, a utility player on a second-division team, which means he only gets back to Los Angeles if the injury bug turns into an epidemic.

Rusty Ryal: One of the many random infielders signed as free agents by the Dodgers this off-season, Ryal is a former Diamondback best remembered by L.A. fans for hitting a line drive off Hiroki Kuroda. He hit a perfectly pedestrian .263/.318/.402 as a reserve for Arizona in 2009-10 before shuffling off to Japan in 2011 (he was a disaster) and slinking back to the minors in 2012, where he put up a middling .257/.294/.384 line between Reno and Gwinnett (Braves). He will have to fight his way through a crowded list of players to make the Isotopes in 2013.

Joe Becker: A good guy, perfectly defining the concept of a blue-collar, overachieving player who came out of nowhere and somehow got all the way to Triple-A. Becker, 27, was a non-drafted free agent out of the junior college ranks back in 2007. He has steadily worked his way all over the system, playing second, short and third, always filling in as a backup wherever he is needed, sometimes on moment’s notice with some serious jet-lag.

Rafael Ynoa: The one guy that got some people excited late in 2012, mainly for his Arizona Fall League performance (.330/.374/.515) that seemed to come out of nowhere. Still, he was left unprotected during the Rule 5 Draft and was not selected, which could more of a sign of his actual standing both with the Dodgers and baseball in general. A fine fielder, Ynoa, 25, has played 365 games at second and 130 at shortstop since signing out of the Dominican back in 2006. He has a little speed, no power, and profiles essentially as another Herrera, albeit less versatile than his countryman.

Scott Wingo: The Dodgers popped the 23-year-old out of South Carolina in the 11th round in 2011 after he had won the College World Series with the Gamecocks. They challenged him by sending Wingo to the California League in his first full season, but found him lacking (.246/.367/.337) beyond some decent defense and the ability to take a walk (56 total). Wingo does not offer much power and is not particularly fast. Despite his high draft status, he is basically just another organizational player.

Jesus Arredondo: A native of Mexico, Arredondo signed out of nowhere last year and will be 22 next month, so he hardly qualifies under the header of “prospect.” He hit .254/.305/.340 at Great Lakes, finishing with zero home runs and 13 stolen bases.

Kevin Taylor: The backup to Arredondo at Great Lakes, Taylor, 21, was a 36th-round draft pick out of a Nevada junior college in 2011. He hit .240/.284/.317 with the Loons and will have to fight for a roster spot somewhere in the organization this spring.

Malcolm Holland: Most high school players drafted in the 33rd round opt to thank their teams and head off to college. Not Holland, who joined the Dodgers in 2011 and played a lot against older competition as a 20-year-old at Ogden. Holland hit .244/.421/.275, showing some impressive plate discipline (54 walks versus 47 Ks) and speed (44 stolen bases), but little power or hitting aptitude. He played 36 games at second base and 23 in center field, so for the future he probably screams utility player, but he is young enough that if the Dodgers can get his bat going, he could be the closest thing they have to a sleeper.

Zachary Babitt: A college senior drafted out of Division II Academy of Art (yes, it’s a real school in San Fran), Babitt was the Dodgers’ 10th-round pick last summer. Sure, he was signed because they saved money on him that they spent elsewhere, but every team needs bodies to fill out the lowest levels of the system. Babitt, 23, hit .254/.389/.271 against much younger competition in the Arizona League. He will be lucky to make it out of Camelback this spring.

Next up: Shortstop, because if this entry did not make you want to spend a week at your local brewery, well, it sure will!

2012 Dodgers in Review #16: 3B/UT Elian Herrera

.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.