Once a top-ranked prospect in the Mets’ system, Dilson Herrera is back to prove that the team was wrong to give up on him in the first place.
At one point anointed as the organization’s second baseman of the future, Herrera was originally acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates as a 19-year-old in 2013, in a deal that, at the time, looked like a steal for the Mets but has since amounted to a net-zero.
Three years — and only 49 major league games — later, Herrera was on the move again, this time to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Jay Bruce, whose own Mets career came to an end this past December.
Herrera’s time in Cincinnati was brief and inconsequential, and most likely hurt by shoulder issues that began in his Mets days. Less than a year after the trade, he underwent season-ending surgery. Heading into the 2018 season out of minor league options, he was outrighted off the 40-man roster.
Herrera would finally see major league time with the Reds over the final three months of the season, but he failed to do much with the opportunity, hitting .184/.268/.414 in 97 plate appearances for a team that spent all but the first two days of the season in last place in the NL Central.
On November 2, he was outrighted for a second time and elected free agency. The Mets reached out to their former prospect and signed him to a minor league contract on November 29.
If we give Herrera the benefit of the doubt for never receiving an extended major league opportunity, we have to admit that he simply hasn’t performed in the majors, and at the end of the day, that’s what counts. In 266 PAs, he’s struck out 79 times, a 29.7% rate.
The frustrating part from Herrera’s point of view is that he’s always been a very good hitter in the minor leagues. Scouts have consistently projected his hit tool as average to above-average. Once upon a time, some projected that he could approach 20 home runs in a full major league season.
He spent the majority of last season with Triple-A Louisville and was very good, posting a 135 wRC+ (keeping in mind that he was 24, while most opponents were 26 or 27). He’s been better than league average at every minor league stop of his career, except for his 68 Triple-A games in 2017 before surgery.
But he isn’t going to hide from his major league results until he proves otherwise. His .203 career average doesn’t look any better next to his .185 expected average.
How he fits
Herrera will only be 25 this season, by no means past his prime, but he’s running out of chances to prove that he can carve out a major league role. He’ll have to earn one with the Mets, and it won’t be easy.
He’s solid depth, but not being on the 40-man roster understandably hurts Herrera’s cause. He’ll have to greatly outperform the likes of Luis Guillorme, T.J. Rivera, and others, and then hope for some good fortune. If he does reach the major leagues this season, Herrera cannot be optioned to the minor leagues and can refuse an outright assignment. With that being the case, he won’t be promoted unless the Mets are more than sure that he’s what they need.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Brooks Baseball, Quality of Pitch, and Statcorner.