When the Mets knew that their 2013 season wasn’t going anywhere, they decided to unload two main players, Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pittsburgh Pirates, hoping that in return they would receive some future value to the organization. What they did receive would not pay any dividends for years to come, but it was a way to continue to solidify their farm system with additional talented ballplayers. In last summers trade with the Pirates, the Mets brought in relief pitcher Vic Black and middle infielder Dilson Herrera, and even though Black may have been the player to make an immediate impact to the big league roster, Herrera could actually be the most significant part of the deal.
Herrera signed an international contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates at 16 years old. I asked him if they were the only team that showed interest in him, “I tried out with a few organizations and wasn’t sure who I would sign with, but the Pirates showed the most interest, so I decided I would sign with their organization,” he says.
While growing up in his native land of Colombia, both his father and grandfather played baseball and he tells me that he owes his talents to his upbringing, “My family has always loved baseball, and because my father played the game, he was able to show me how to play the right way.”
Before signing a contract to play professional baseball, Herrera was molded to be a shortstop and he even emulated how Jimmy Rollins played the position. But the Pirates had other plans and decided to sign him to play third base but then after one season they moved him to second base. Even though Herrera initially liked to play short, he tells me that the move to second was a better fit, “I felt that I was more comfortable playing second base, because shortstop was a bit more difficult to get adjusted to early on and the throws were much longer. But now, I have shown that I am capable of adjusting and playing both positions very well,” he says as he sits back in his chair with a confident look on his face.
In 2011, the top prospect played his first pro season in the Venezuelan Rookie League for the Pirates and he hit .308/.413/.472 with 19 doubles, five triples, two home runs, and 27 RBI’s. The following season he was promoted to the Pirates’ Gulf Coast team and in 53 games, he batted .281/.341/.482 with seven home runs, and 27 RBI’s. Herrera finished out the 2012 season with a bump to Low-A State College in the NY Penn League and in seven games batted .321/.345/.536.
Herrera would call the South Atlantic League home in 2013, and in 109 games for Single-A West Virginia he batted .265/.330/.421, with 27 doubles, 11 home runs, and 56 RBI’s. His prospect status was on the rise.
During that summer, Herrera represented the Pirates in the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field, and became the second-youngest player to ever play in the game.
“It was an amazing experience to be in New York and have an opportunity to play at Citi Field. It was very special to me to be chosen for the game and something I will never forget,” says Herrera.
When the Pirates decided to part ways with the young infielder, initially he says he didn’t take it too well, “I was a bit confused and down when I was traded to the Mets, because I didn’t understand why the Pirates would trade me especially since they were the first team to sign me. I felt like they were my team.”
For a young kid from another country who was still not comfortable with the English language, leaving the only organization he ever knew was a shock to the system. But the one of the good things that came out of it was the immediate connection he made with the Mets organization.
Pedro Perez, a player within the Mets farm system, knew Herrera from their homeland of Colombia and he played a big part in helping Herrera to adjust to his new organization, “Pedro was the first person to contact me and welcome me to the Mets and I was very thankful that I had a friend that understood me and could help me feel comfortable in my new surroundings.”
After the trade, Herrera was assigned to Single-A Savannah for the last seven games of the season. He batted .316/.417/.316 with his new club. The move also allowed him to be a part of a team that would capture the 2013 SAL Championship.
“When I arrived in Savannah, the players, especially our manager Luis Rojas welcomed me and instantly made me feel like a member of the team. It was a great feeling to play with a group of guys that were good enough to win the league championship. I was very grateful for the opportunity to not only play but help the team win.”
For a player that is 5’10”, Herrera has displayed some surprising power, belting 22 home runs in three minor league seasons. But his plate approach is not about hitting home runs, but as he says, playing the game the right way. “I like to drive the ball the other way, and I don’t focus on hitting home runs, I just focus on putting the bat on the ball and making things happen,” says Herrera.
Herrera oozes with confidence and focuses on producing the best he can from day to day. He tells me that he doesn’t worry about things beyond his control. “My main focus is to do what needs to be done on the field. I can only control that part of my game and I know that in time I will get my opportunity.”
Herrera, who is now playing with Advanced-A St. Lucie in his first full season with the organization, started the year 3-for-17 (.176) in his first five games. But since then he reeled off an 11-game hit streak in which he batted .391 (20 for 51), with three doubles, a triple, home run, five RBIs and four walks.
Overall this season, he has been a catalyst, batting .333/.389/.432, with eight multi-hit games. After seeing his hitting streak come to an on Monday, he started a new one on Tuesday with three hits and one more hit in Wednesday night’s game.
This exciting infield prospect has solidified himself in the lead-off spot for St. Lucie and he is one of the main components in a potent lineup that leads the Florida State League through Wednesday games with a .283 batting average, 99 runs, 190 hits, 92 RBI’s, 267 TB, and a .356 OBP.
“I feel very comfortable playing with St. Lucie and we have a very good team with a great group of talented guys that go out each and every night and compete.”
I had a chance to watch Herrera play from April 17-19, when the Mets visited the Miracle in Fort Myers, and what I witnessed was a very talented ballplayer that could turn on any fastball and drive it with power. His range at the shortstop and second base were flawless and his throws to first were very strong and accurate.
Only 20 years old, Herrera has had an incredible minor league career thus far, producing at every different level he’s played. He’s been dynamic both at the plate and in the field. In a few short years I can see him becoming an impact player on our big league roster. I’m excited for the day he makes his debut and electrifies our lineup.
Interview was conducted in Spanish and translated into English for our readers to enjoy.