Phillies Will Keep Odubel Herrera in Center Field, So Stop Asking


Phillies 2014 Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera has been an above-average center fielder since moving there, so it makes little sense for him to return to second.

The Phillies stumbled onto their best center fielder since Shane Victorino was traded in 2012 when they selected Odubel Herrera in the Rule 5 draft. The Rangers left Herrera unprotected, and the team decided to take a chance on the Venezuelan-born Herrera.

The move paid off for the team as he has hit for a .291/.353/.419 line across two seasons since reaching the major-leagues. He hit eight home runs in his rookie year then hit 15 last year. Both seasons he led the Phils in Baseball Reference WAR with 3.8 his first season then 4.2 in 2016.

Herrera’s bat has placed him in the lineup for years to come, with the Phils offering Herrera a long-term extension earlier this offseason. The deal will keep Herrera in Philadelphia until 2021 with options for 2022 and 2023.

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With this long-term extension, one would think that the Phils plan to keep Herrera in center field for years to come. However, talk of moving Herrera back to second base – his position in the minor-leagues – has not ended yet.

One fan recently asked Todd Zolecki of in a Q&A if the team would move Herrera back to second “to open an extra outfield spot for the younger talent.”

Zolecki dismissed the notion, saying “Herrera’s time as an infielder has passed.” I agree with Zolecki as I feel Herrera is the best option in center field for Philadelphia for the next several years.

For starters, Herrera was a Gold Glove finalist in 2016. You don’t move a Gold Glove-caliber player away from their position unless you can replace them with another Gold Glove worthy defender. Only three center fielders have been more valuable on defense since Herrera’s major-league career started: Kevin Kiermaier, Kevin Pillar, and Billy Hamilton. It would take a truly elite defender to move Herrera away from center.

As of now, the three Phils outfield prospects who are close to the major-leagues are Dylan Cozens, Nick Williams, and Roman Quinn. Cozens can not and should not play center field, so we won’t have to worry about him. Williams has the speed to play center, but his arm and routes in center field aren’t exactly ideal.

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The one player who I feel might best Herrera as a defensive center fielder is Quinn. He has true 80-grade speed and the defensive instincts to put it to good use. Quinn also has a plus arm that plays well from center.

However, Herrera remains the better option over Quinn because the latter struggles to remain healthy. If Quinn were to get injured as the starter in center field – which is likely bordering on probable at this point – there would be much more lineup shuffling compared to if Herrera was the starter.

In addition, moving Herrera back to second would only add to the brewing logjam there. One of Freddy Galvis or Cesar Hernandez will be moved to bench once J.P. Crawford arrives to the majors. Moving Herrera to second would land two starting-caliber middle infielders on the bench in favor of young outfielders who still need to establish themselves in the majors.

Finally, the Phillies have plenty of depth at second base already. In addition to Galvis and Hernandez, Howie Kendrick has spent most of his career as a second baseman. In the event of injury, it is far more likely Kendrick would move back to second over Herrera.

The only time where I could see the Phils considering moving Herrera out of center field is when 2016 No. 1 overall pick Mickey Moniak eventually comes to the majors. Even then, doesn’t expect Moniak to reach the majors until 2020, when Herrera’s contract will nearly be over. We have plenty of time until then to figure out what to do with the two outfielders.

Next: Phillies Close to Signing OF Michael Saunders

For now, it’s hard to see Herrera being moved from center field anytime soon, so stop asking about moving him to second.