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March 20, 2019

Phillies preview: Odubel Herrera's defense will be key to outfield success in 2019

Over the last two weeks of spring training, the Phillies turn their prep work to get ready for the regular season into overdrive.

We'll do the same thing here at PhillyVoice. As the March 28 season opener against the Braves approaches, we'll break down everything you need to know to get ready for one of the most anticipated Phillies seasons ever.

Let's take a look at center field...

Odubel Herrera has been a great Phillie, by many measuring sticks.

He was the team's only All-Star during their horrid 91-loss season in 2016. He has routinely competed for batting titles and has come through in the clutch more often than one might think. 

And he's also been tied to controversy, has had consistency issues, but has shown flashes of brilliance in four seasons starting in center field in Citizens Bank Park.

He survived 2018-19's roster overhaul, and will move from line up centerpiece to third outfielder and into a potential slot in the 7 or 8-hole in the batting order.

The pressure is off, but the opportunity has never been greater. Here's a look at Herrera and his outlook for 2019:

Scouting report

Herrera had a breakout year in 2016, his second season as a Phillie. Not only was he an All-Star offensively — hitting .286 with 15 homers, 25 stolen bases and 63 walks — but he was a reliable defensive outfielder with range and accuracy. He led NL outfielders in put outs, had the fewest errors of any CF and had the second most outfield assists.

That season, his defense saved the Phillies six runs above average. In 2018, he cost them 11.

What was behind the steep drop off in outfield efficiency? There's no real way to pinpoint it — the entire defense was god awful last season, Herrera included. But the real question is whether Herrera will return to form. Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen will be his co-outfielders this coming season and their ability to make plays will be key as the pitching staff is not particularly deep beyond Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola.

With the bat, Herrera had a career low in batting average last season (.255) but posted highs in homers and RBI. With more baserunners expected after Philly's roster overhaul, his power numbers could improve once again.

NL East ranking

The centerfield field in the NL East lacks some serious star power — and Herrera may actually be the biggest name of the bunch. Veterans Juan Lagares and Ender Inciarte will be the starters for the Mets and Braves respectively and each are moderately productive. The Nationals and Marlins are going with less proven options, as Miami hopes their one time top prospect Lewis Brinson can reach his potential this year, and Washington looks to tap into Michael Taylor's power potential. 

CF 2018 stats2019 proj*  Career WAR
PHI Odubel Herrera (27).255/.310/.420
22 HR, 71 RBI
16 HR, 57 RBI
ATLEnder Inciarte (28).265/.325/.380
10 HR, 61 RBI
9 HR, 48 RBI
WASMichael A. Taylor (27).227/.287/.357
6 HR, 28 RBI
13 HR, 42 RBI
NYMJuan Lagares (30)20 hits
in 59 at bats
5 HR, 21 RBI
MIALewis Brinson (24).199/.240/.338
11 HR, 42 RBI
12 HR, 43 RBI


If Herrera returns to form, he could be a big advantage for the Phils positionally.

Phillies' future

Two seasons ago the Phillies extended Herrera with a five year, $30.5 million contract. He is about to enter year three of that pact, which will have him in Philadelphia through the 2021 season, though two team options kick in in 2022 and 2023. 

There is reason to believe Herrera may be traded, eventually, before his contract runs out. That is because two of the Phils top prospects, and two recent first round picks Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley are both centerfielders. Haseley is 22 and Moniak is 20, and each were not only invited to spring training this winter but also each got a relatively high work load in games.

If things pan out how the front office hopes, one of those two players could be in center sooner rather than later.

Phillies season preview
C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | RF | CF | LF | SP | RP | Bench | Coach

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