When the Marlins quietly added Rosell Herrera in January, SiriusXM/Five Reasons Sports Network host Craig Mish shared this text message from an industry source who had spent time with him in another organization:
“Off the charts. Love him. Hardest-working greatest person there is. Plays everywhere. Greatest teammate and coachable. He needs some adjustments at the plate to be a big league hitter. If he does, he can be an everyday guy for the right team. If all players were like him, everyone’s job would be great. Refreshing player.”
On the eve of the Grapefruit League season, Herrera continues to be one of the least-discussed players on the Marlins. But dive deeper and we find encouraging signs that the 26-year-old can have a substantial impact on and off the field.
How did he get here? Claimed off waivers from the Kansas City Royals on January 2, 2019.
2018 MLB Stats: .234/.286/.317, 1 HR, 20 RBI, 3 SB in 86 G
2019 ZiPS Projections: .232/.291/.330, 5 HR, 32 RBI, 12 SB in 118 G
Signed out of the Dominican Republic by Colorado at the age of 16, Herrera immediately became a top international prospect in the Rockies farm system.
His status met its peak in 2014, when he was named a Baseball America Top 100 Prospect (subscription required and recommended). This distinction was following a minor league season that saw him slash .343/.419/.515, with 16 HR and 76 runs batted in for the Low-A Asheville Tourists. His offensive production was not the only reason he was highly respected, as he was also playing solid defense at shortstop, third base, and second base.
The Rockies understandably thought they were developing a multi-faceted, switch-hitter who was bound for great achievements at higher levels of competition.
What happened to the former Top 100 prospect?
Herrera’s wrists started failing him. No, literally: his wrists stopped working. He developed inflammation in both of his wrist joints, missing nearly half of the 2014 campaign and hitting for reduced power even when put into the lineup (4 HR in 72 G).
The Rockies were patient as Herrera repeated High-A in 2015, this time without requiring any stints on the disabled list, but to no avail. He was a completely different player.
Herrera re-signed with his original franchise each of the next two years with the intent of fixing his swing and recapturing that old form. Then in 2018, the journey yielded results, as he played in 86 major league games (68 starts) between the Royals and the Reds.
There’s still skepticism about the bat—Herrera homered only once as a rookie, and it was the cheapest of all cheap shots.
Nonetheless, he contributed better than replacement-level production thanks to his versatility. Herrera logged innings at every position sans catcher, first base, and shortstop. He generated 10 Defensive Runs Saved per Fangraphs, demonstrating real aptitude for several different assignments, rather than simply being a position-filler.
Now on the Marlins, look for Herrera to compete for the role that Yadiel Rivera fulfilled last year. A 40-man roster spot and superior 2018 stats seemingly give him the inside track.
Will Herrera ever reach his once highly-regarded ceiling? Did his early wrist injuries impair his progression to the point that the 26 year-old simply needs more time to develop?
The Marlins hope to find out soon. One thing is certain—for being among the least-covered players in camp, Herrera has a healthy amount of intrigue attached to his potential.