Phillies 2016 Most Valuable Player: Odubel Herrera

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Sep 20, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera (37) scores past Chicago White Sox catcher Omar Narvaez (38) during the third inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera (37) scores past Chicago White Sox catcher Omar Narvaez (38) during the third inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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For the second year in a row, Odubel Herrera was a spark plug for the Phillies offense. He improved in multiple offensive categories.

For the Phillies Cy Young award, it was a tough choice, but in a good way. Jerad Eickhoff provided stability in the rotation, which is why I gave him the award. However, you could make the case for Vincent Velasquez or Jeremy Hellickson, and I wouldn’t bat an eye. Hell, Baltimore’s Zach Britton might win the AL Cy Young out of the bullpen, so if you told me Hector Neris, I could see it too.

When it comes to the Phillies position players, the field shrinks. Considering the team ranked towards the bottom in nearly every offensive category this season, there are few players to choose from. Freddy Galvis hit for power but little contact, and Cesar Hernandez did the converse. A case exists for Tommy Joseph with his power, but his on-base ability was poor.

In my eyes, just one player stands out above the rest in the Phillies MVP race. Odubel Herrera hit for a solid combination of power and contact while also solidifying himself in the outfield.

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Herrera finished the year with a .286/.361/.420 line at the plate. He tallied 15 home runs and 49 RBI, but also scored 87 runs. Herrera saw increases in his OBP, slugging percentages, and walk rate from his rookie year. Meanwhile, Herrera’s strikeout rate also decreased from 24% in 2015 to 20.4% this season.

On the bases, Herrera converted 25 of 32 stolen base attempts. Fangraphs gave Herrera a 2.7 Base Running value, which they consider above average.

Herrera led the Phillies in Baseball Reference’s WAR with 4.2 and trailed just Cesar Hernandez in Fangraphs WAR with 3.9. Herrera contributed a win-probability-added of 1.44, which ranked third on the team among position players. His positive WPA of 11.93 is the best on the team.

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Herrera’s plate discipline was markedly better compared to 2015. His walk rate jumped from 5.2% to 9.6%, while his strikeout rate fell, as mentioned earlier. According to Pitchf/X, Herrera swung at more pitches inside the zone and less outside of the zone while swinging at slightly fewer pitches.

The former Rule 5 pick also hit fewer ground balls compared to last season in exchange for more fly balls. Despite that, Herrera took advantage of those fly balls, knocking the ball out of the park on 10.6% of his fly balls.

When we take a look at Herrera’s batted ball stats, he actually shortened up his swing, hitting the ball the opposite way 35.8% of the time. He also hit the ball up the middle 37.5% of the time. While going the opposite way usually hurts a player’s power, but Herrera in fact built upon it. He nearly doubled his home run total and raised his HR/FB%, both indicators of increased power. Herrera also flashed some opposite field power with four opposite-field home runs, but a majority still went towards Herrera’s pull side.

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While his skills at the plate improved, Herrera also solidified the center field position for the Phillies. Herrera had 11 outfield assists and turned four double plays, which ranked second and first in the National League, respectively. Herrera also ranked third in the NL among all outfielders in Range Factor per nine innings at 2.65 after finishing first last year with 2.92.

Thanks to his stellar first half where Herrera carried an .806 OPS and paced the Phillies with 2.4 fWAR at the time, he earned the privilege to be the team’s lone representative in the All-Star Game. Manager Pete Mackanin told MLB.com’s Alex Putterman that Herrera is “a special guy. I call him a hit collector. I don’t know how he does it sometimes.”

Herrera struggled in July and August, hitting for a .227 average in July and .282 in August. He managed to finish the season strong with a .840 OPS and 127 wRC+ in September and October. Both of those were his best marks since May.

Next: Phillies Mock Trade: Acquiring Anibal Sanchez from Detroit

After last year, I wanted to see if Odubel Herrera could repeat his strong rookie season before I penciled him into the future Phillies outfield. Herrera did just that, producing another four-WA season in 2016. At worst, the Phillies may move Herrera to a corner outfield spot, but he definitely has a long-term spot in the rotation.

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