Phillies 2018 season preview: Center fielder Odubel Herrera

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ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 09: Odubel Herrera #37 of the Philadelphia Phillies slides safely into third base after hitting a triple and then scores on a throwing error by Ozzie Albies #1 of the Atlanta Braves in the third inning at SunTrust Park on August 9, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 09: Odubel Herrera #37 of the Philadelphia Phillies slides safely into third base after hitting a triple and then scores on a throwing error by Ozzie Albies #1 of the Atlanta Braves in the third inning at SunTrust Park on August 9, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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After an All-Star selection in 2016, and a 2017 season marred by immaturity and inconsistency, how will Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera fare in 2018?

Heading into 2017 hopes were high for Odubel Herrera. Herrera was fresh of a solid 2016 campaign for the Phillies where he hit .286 with 15 home runs, 49 RBI, and 87 runs scored.

This production led the team to ink Herrera to a five-year, $30.5 million contract. They thought of him as a building block for the future, and rightly so. He led the team in wins above replacement during both 2015 and 2016

Things change quickly, and after an up and down 2017, Herrera needs to return to form. He struggled majorly in the first half of 2017, hitting.256 with 6 home runs, 29 RBI, and 32 runs scored.

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Along with a drop off in production, Herrera had numerous base running errors throughout the season, leading to costly outs. He often disregarded stop signs from third base coach Juan Samuel.

Things would reach such a boiling point during the first half, that Herrera would be benched multiple times, pulled from games, and former manager Pete Mackanin wanted to send Herrera down to the minors, but GM Matt Klentak would not allow that to happen.

Post All-Star break, Herrera would still show mental errors and immaturity, but his offensive numbers would improve greatly. Herrera hit .323 with eight home runs, 27 RBI, and 35 runs scored. These numbers were much closer to what fans and the organization were used to from the talented outfielder.

A strong second half led Herrera to finish the season with an average of .281, 14 home runs, 56 RBI and 67 runs scored. They were close to his final numbers from his 2016 All-Star season.

In 2018, it is important for Herrera to improve upon those numbers, as well as cut down on the mental mistakes if he wants to stay with the Phillies in the long-term.

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The rebuild is nearing an end, and the outfield has become more crowded. The addition of Carlos Santana has pushed Rhys Hoskins to the outfield, leaving two spots, and three players fighting for playing time in Herrera, Nick Williams, and Aaron Altherr.

Making things even cloudier for the future of the outfield, is the known interest of the team in upcoming free agent Bryce Harper.

If the team were to add Harper for the 2019 season, that would leave Herrera, Williams, and Altherr all fighting for that last spot, along with the wealth of outfield prospects the Phillies have coming up.

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If Herrera wants to be with the team for years to come, it is imperative that he make a big impression in 2018, and take the next step in his development. New manager Gabe Kapler has put a strong emphasis on the fundamentals, which should help Herrera cut down on the mental mistakes, and only help his cause to become a better player.

For 2018 I predict Herrera improves upon his numbers the past two seasons, as this will be the best supporting cast around him he has ever played with in Philadelphia.

The addition of Santana, the continued emergence of Hoskins, and the Phillies other young talent’s continued development, should allow Herrera to see better pitches.

Along with Santana providing help in the order, he has a reputation for being the ideal member of the clubhouse and displaying a strong work ethic. This should allow him to set a good example for Herrera, and allow him to rid of some of his immaturity and fix his mental errors.

Baseball Prospectus projects Herrera to have a .278/.336/.429 line with 14 home runs, 64 RBI, and 14 stolen bases with two wins above replacement. I believe he will greatly exceed those projections. For 2018, I predict Herrera to hit .292 with 16 home runs, 62 RBI, and 91 runs scored.

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Herrera is one of the most important players who will dictate the success of the 2018 Phillies. He needs to work through his mental gaffes, but he should be able to return to his All-Star form from two years ago and cement his role on this team.

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