Phillies Center Fielder Odubel Herrera Is Best MLB Player You Don’t Know About

May 31, 2016 by  
Filed under Fan News

A year ago, Odubel Herrera was just another faceless player on a bad Philadelphia Phillies team, a nice Rule 5 pickup but still a guy known for little but having an unusual first name.

Did you know he’s the only Odubel ever to play major league baseball? There’s been an Odie (Porter), and Odalis (Perez) and an Oddibe (McDowell), but never another Odubel.

Anyway, the Phillies still aren’t all that good, with a run differential (minus-43) and a roster (mostly uninspiring) suggesting their above-.500 record won’t last. But if Odubel Herrera is still a faceless Phillie to you, well, he shouldn’t be.

On a team that was supposed to be about Maikel Franco and waiting for J.P. Crawford, the 24-year-old kid named Odubel has emerged as the best and most exciting player. He’s gone from nice pickup to a part of the future, a guy Phillies manager Pete Mackanin described to’s Corey Seidman as “a perennial .300” hitter.

What’s most impressive is how he did it.

In an era when plate discipline is valued more than ever, Herrera didn’t have it. He didn’t have it last year, which might be excused because it was his first year in the majors, but he didn’t have it in the minor leagues, either.

And now he does. By May 15, he had already walked more times (29) than he did in 537 plate appearances in 2015. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has dropped from 4.61 last year to 1.18 through Sunday.

“It’s been like night and day,” Phillies third base coach Juan Samuel said Monday.

Scouts who have watched the Phillies agree, and say it’s amazing Herrera made the change so quickly and seemingly without giving up any aggressiveness at the plate.

“He’s willing to work a count and take a walk,” one American League scout said. “But he’s still pretty aggressive.”

That shows in the numbers, too. Herrera isn’t going to be a power hitter, but he already has five home runs, compared to eight all of last year. He’s not giving up power just to put the ball in play.

He’s kept his batting average high (.320), so his on-base percentage (.427) ranked third in the major leagues entering play Monday, behind only Ben Zobrist (.454) and Dexter Fowler (.433) of the Chicago Cubs.

The Phillies like what they see but believe there’s even more to come.

“He hasn’t tried it much, but he’s a good bunter, too,” Samuel said.

He’s even made himself into a decent center fielder, one scouts say has good range but still needs work on his reads and routes. That’s hardly surprising, given that Herrera played mostly at second base before the Texas Rangers left him unprotected and the Phillies grabbed him as a Rule 5 draft pick in December 2014.

With Samuel’s help, they made him a full-time center fielder (a position he played for just two Class A games with the Rangers). This year, they’ve made him a leadoff hitter after he made himself into a player who fits that spot.

In various interviews, Herrera has credited his father, Odubel Sr., who told him last winter that 129 strikeouts weren’t acceptable.

“I feel like when I’m having my at-bat, it’s my dad, actually, having my at-bat, because I always have him in my head,” Herrera told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “One thing that he told me, and he was very specific about it, was that I needed to drop down my strikeouts. I struck out too many times last year.”

It’s easy to say that; not usually so easy to do it. So far this year, Herrera has done it.

The season hasn’t been completely smooth for him. Just last week, Mackanin pulled him from a game in Detroit for not running out a ground ball. But in that same series, Herrera had a home run and a bat flip that made its way around the Internet.

Todd Zolecki of enjoyed it so much he put it on Twitter:

The Phillies have enjoyed watching Herrera, from the bat flips (sometimes after walks) to the horns sign (his nickname is El Torito).

“He’s an energy source on this team,” first baseman Ryan Howard told Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “He goes, we go.”

Many of the current Phillies, including Howard, will be going as the rebuilding process continues. Herrera, who never made any of the top prospect lists, could easily have been one of those who went.

Not now. Now he’s not just a guy with an unusual name. He’s a guy with a name you should get to know.

He’s Odubel Herrera.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

Read more Philadelphia Phillies news on

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Rookie Phenom Maikel Franco Gives Phillies the Next Franchise Centerpiece

June 29, 2015 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies are such a mess that when their manager quit last week, their players barely seemed to care. They’re such a mess that they recently went out in search of someone to fix the situation (hello, Andy MacPhail).

There’s going to be a new manager in place of Ryne Sandberg, and you’ve got to believe there’s going to be a new general manager, too. They’re going to need a whole bunch of new players.

It’s going to take time, but it’s far from an impossible task. The Phillies should add some real talent when they finally trade Cole Hamels.

And they already have a guy who should be the star of the future. Maybe the star of the present, too.

Maikel Franco is breaking in with a Phillies team that is awful, but so did Mike Schmidt (who debuted with a 97-loss club in 1972). So did Jimmy Rollins (who debuted with a 97-loss squad in 2000).

Franco actually debuted last September, with a club that was on the way to 89 losses. He’s getting plenty familiar with losing this year, but at 22, he’s young enough to become part of the next Phillies winner.

Plenty good enough, too.

He’s “a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat,” said one rival scout who has followed Franco’s career since 2013, when he homered 16 times in just 65 games at Single-A Clearwater. “He has great bat speed, and great power to all fields. The first at-bat I ever saw him take, he hit it over the Tiki Bar in left field [in Clearwater]. The next at-bat, he hit it off the right field wall.”

The National League is starting to see the same thing. And the American League, too, because when he homered three times and drove in 10 runs in back-to-back games last week, it was at Yankee Stadium.

He was the first Phillie to drive in five runs in consecutive games, the first Yankee opponent to drive in five runs in consecutive games and one of only five active players with two straight five-RBI games anywhere. The other four: Alex Rodriguez, Bryce Harper, Robinson Cano and Carlos Beltran.

Franco spent the first five weeks of the season in the minor leagues, but he’s still driven in more runs than any Phillie but Ryan Howard. Franco had been in the big leagues less than a month this season when Sandberg moved him to the third spot in the lineup. When Sandberg resigned last Friday, interim manager Pete Mackanin kept Franco in the same spot.

The Phillies seem to know what they have. Jim Salisbury of related a conversation between Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa and Reds first base coach Billy Hatcher.

“We’ve got a stud at third!” Bowa told Hatcher.

There have been times when the Phillies and others wondered if Franco would stay at third. For all his talent, Franco is not fast, and Salisbury writes that the Phillies had thoughts of making him a catcher. Others thought he might end up at first base (where he played twice last week).

The scout who has followed Franco’s career insists he’ll be fine at third because of his great hands, quick feet and a “cannon” arm.

No matter what, it seems certain that Franco will be a fixture in the Phillies lineup as it evolves over the next few years. The Phillies aren’t loaded with big prospects, but with Franco and shortstop J.P. Crawford (currently at Double-A Reading), they should have the left side of the infield covered.

Teams can turn around quickly in this baseball era, especially clubs with the financial resources the Phillies have. The Tigers went from 119 losses to the World Series in just three years, and they didn’t have anyone on the 2003 team who was as promising as Franco is now.

They didn’t have anyone with Hamels’ trade value, either.

Look at the Phillies now, and it’s hard to imagine they could be a World Series team in three years, or even twice that. But look at Maikel Franco now, and it’s easy to imagine that he’ll be a big part of the next Phillies team that wins.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball. 

Read more Philadelphia Phillies news on

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Cole Hamels’ Phillies Life as a Never-Ending Trade Rumor Should End Soon

June 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Fan News

Much like Cole Hamels, I could think of something really funny to say, but I’d rather just be truthful.

And the truth is that, as the long-running Hamels trade saga winds toward an end, it actually looks like it will end up working out well for almost everyone. A team will get a 31-year-old left-hander who can still be a difference-maker, Hamels will be liberated from the mess the Phillies have become and the Phillies will take a significant step toward fixing that mess.

Perhaps general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will even get a touch of redemption, but that’s doubtful. Even if the Phillies end up making a great trade when they finally deal Hamels—to the Dodgers, Rangers, Yankees or some surprise entrant—the credit will probably go to Pat Gillick or even to Andy MacPhail, who appears close to succeeding Gillick as the most important baseball chief at Citizens Bank Park, as reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

Amaro had his chance last year, last winter or even in July 2012, when the Phillies signed Hamels to a $144 million, six-year contract extension instead of trading him.

At the time, it seemed like a reasonable decision by a franchise that had won the National League East five straight years. It looks different now, with the Phillies headed for a third straight losing season and quite possibly their first 100-loss season since 1961.

No one should blame Hamels for wanting to stay in 2012, and no one should blame him for wanting out now.

No one should blame him for trying hard not to say that he wants out. (He declined to speak to reporters Monday, and even after saying he’d be truthful rather than funny, he insisted he doesn’t think much about getting traded.) Now that the Phillies finally seem determined to move him, why would he want to risk saying anything that could hamper those efforts?

“It’s just kind of normal, going on 12 months,” he said, when someone asked about pitching while scouts watch and writers speculate. “I could think of something really funny to say,” Hamels said, “but I’d rather just be truthful with you. No, I don’t [think about it].”

He insists it doesn’t bother him, and maybe it shouldn’t. Hamels has some control over the process (his contract says he can be traded without his permission to only nine teams of his choosing), and when it’s over, it’s almost certain that he’ll be in a better place.

“I’ve got to pitch every five days,” he said. “I’ve just got to stay healthy.”

He said this after his first start in 10 days, after he was skipped once because of what he and the Phillies called a minor hamstring issue. It’s believable now that it really was minor, because it’s not in the Phillies’ interest to take any chances with the one asset that could jump-start the rebuilding process and because Hamels looked healthy in his start at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.

The Phils took two big chances already by not trading Hamels last July or last winter. Pitchers’ arms are fragile, perhaps now more than ever. Performance can fade quickly too, depressing interest. But Hamels has avoided any big health issues and is pitching as well as he ever has.

His fastball velocity is actually higher now than it was in his three All-Star seasons (he hit 95 mph and averaged 93.5 on Wednesday, according to, and his other numbers are right around his career averages. The fact that the Phillies are 35-43 in Hamels’ 78 starts since his extension kicked in says more about the team than it does about him.

Even on a trade market that could include Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and others (the Boston Globe reported Thursday that some teams are hoping the Red Sox trade Clay Buchholz), Hamels will likely be the top prize.

The Dodgers sent one of their top scouts to watch him Wednesday, which was not surprising, considering they need pitching now and will need more if Zack Greinke does the expected and opts out of his contract after this season.

The Rangers were mentioned this week by Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi, and on the same day, columnist Kevin Kernan wrote in the New York Post that the Yankees need to get Hamels at any cost.

The talks will continue, and Hamels will wait, although he did try to bring in a little levity when he playfully cleaned out his locker one day during the Phillies’ last homestand.

The Phillies can market Hamels as a guy who might get you to the World Series this year, knows what to do once he’s there (his seven postseason wins are tied for second among active pitchers, behind CC Sabathia’s nine) and is signed to a reasonable contract that still has three seasons to run after this one.

When the Phillies signed Hamels, the idea was that he was young enough to survive whatever necessary rebuilding they needed and still contribute to their next winning team. They could still make that argument now, except the Phillies are such a mess that it’s hard to see that next winning team coming within the next two or three years.

MacPhail’s pending arrival could mean the end for both Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg, who was handed a difficult situation but seems to be confirming the opinion of others that he wouldn’t be very good at the job. The Phillies have some top young talent, both in the big leagues (Maikel Franco) and in the minors (Double-A shortstop J.P. Crawford), but they don’t have nearly enough of it.

They have other trade chips too, in closer Jonathan Papelbon and perhaps even first baseman Ryan Howard. But both of them come with big contracts and big questions, and neither could bring the kind of return the Phillies really need.

Hamels can, and he probably will. And he’s going to do it with his strong left arm, not with any funny comments coming out of his mouth.

Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

Read more Philadelphia Phillies news on

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies