Updated: May 2, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of quirky and goofy guy and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible.I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Ivan Herrera - Catcher
Signed as an International Free Agent in 2016 for $200,00
Full Season-A Peoria
Age.... Wait for it.... Wait for it... 18!!!!
STATS AS OF 5-1-2019
*Everyone, I am so sorry about this. This is the write-up that will suffer the most from my constant combo of bad luck and ineptness. Just a few months ago, I had gifs from every impactful moment of Herrera's short, two-game stint in Springfield. I'd say, maybe 7-10 gifs worth.
Then, at some point during the last four or five months, one of the archives of gifs that I keep disappeared. I believe that I deleted it like the asshole that I am. That meant that somewhere between 80 and 120 gifs of various prospects were been deleted. Most of those gifs were of the kids that had received late season promotions.
Then, when I went to re-watch the appearances that he made with Springfield in an effort to replenish those gifs, I was heartbroken to find that MiLB-TV had shut their archives down while upgrading their media player.
This is all to say that I am really letting you down here, and I'm very sorry about it. I hope that you enjoy the write-up, regardless. I promise that I'll make up for it in the long run.*
This is a complex story with many angles from which to start the tale.
First, this is a cautionary tale about why we shouldn't invest much thought into the amount of money that one individual signs for during the International signing Period.
On July 2nd, 2016, the Cardinals' inked a consensus top 30 International prospect from that signing period to a $2.35 million signing bonus. That prospect was Jonathan Machado. Machado is an outfielder with a ceiling of Magneuris Sierra, but with a better contact tool and less defensive acumen (especially in the arm department). During that same signing period, the Cardinals spent $200,000 on a catcher named Ivan Herrera. Herrera was more physically gifted and developed than Machado. He had a quicker bat that Machado, and he could do more while in the batter's box than Machado could ever dream of doing.
Now, just about two and a half years later, Machado is being exposed. He's falling off of over-aggressive, uninformed, and hype-driven lists (while still possessing a relatively high-ceiling, mind you) while Herrera is starting to get national attention. I've been told that Herrera is really starting to move up a lot of national lists that are, at the same time, moving Machado down their lists. As a matter of fact, at this point, feel free to completely write off any ranking service that has Machado higher than Herrera. I know that's what I would do if I was playing along at home.
The second way to come at Herrera's story is to emphasize how important it is to possess a projectable hitting tool. You see, I went back and forth as I was trying to decide if he or our #26 prospect Dennis Ortega should rank higher on the list.
Ortega is way more polished (because he's older and has been in the organization longer) and he'll stick at catcher in the long run. Herrera might not stick at catcher, but his bat will stick at some position. I decided to give Herrera the higher spot on the list because major league organizations always seem to find a way to find a spot for a stick. NOW, I HAVE TO SAY THAT THE CATCHER POSITION IS THE ONE POSITION WHERE THAT EVALUATION MIGHT BE A TOTAL FARCE AND THE MINOR LEAGUES ARE DARK AND FULL OF TERRORS. Nine times out of ten the bat will get the nod.
The third way to tell this story, is by reminding you that his time at Springfield doesn't matter at all. Here in a second, you'll get a .gif of him tracking down a flyball while catching for Springfield at the end of the season. If you feel the need to take something from his time at AA, only take from it that he's more athletic behind the plate than he is getting credit for.
It was awesome to see this 18-year-old be rewarded with a promotion to Springfield after a stand-out stint at Johnson City. As always, we issue this warning: it just isn't fair or smart to talk about him as the potential future of the Cardinals behind the plate if/when Yadier Molina eventually retires. It's a foolhardy and pointless conversation to have. This will be the last time that I bring that up in this article. It should definitely be the last time that you think about it until the end of the season, at the very earliest. Anyway, here is the .gif that I was talking about:
The fourth way to tell this story involves me reminding you that I'm not big on getting too hyped up about players that haven't spent a significant amount of time at a full-season club.
In this narrative, I emphasize that his spot on the list is even more impressive and earned because of my apprehension to place any player so young and inexperienced so high on the D35. I've thought long and hard about this spot for Herrera and whether or not it's warranted. The more that I thought about it, the more that I think that it might actually be a tad bit on the conservative side. I'm fine with that, for now, because he still has such a long way to go. Take note that he could very easily have warranted a higher spot on the list.
What I will tell you about Herrera is that his near-matching and consecutive wRC+ of 155 and 160 in 2017 and 2018, respectively, is DAMN Impressive. I can also tell you that his swing has substantially more power in it due to the leverage that he gets from his lower body (hips) as well as the quickness of his bat and quietness of his hands.
He has an advanced feel for the strike zone with good barrel-ability, especially for a hitter as young as he is. Make no mistake, Herrera is a pure hitter with more power to come.
The issue for Herrera moving forward will be how his defense develops. I've been told that his work behind the plate is being bashed pretty hard.
What I'll also tell you is, HE'S 18-YEARS-OLD! He possesses good athleticism (especially for his broad-body-type), and I don't think it's exactly fair just yet to say that he can't play the position.
I'm definitely at my worst when I'm evaluating the defense of catchers, so keep that in mind here. I can tell you that the only thing that really sticks out, as compared to his peers in the Appalachian League, was that his arm seemed a little weaker. He seemed slower on the pop-time, as well. Sure, He struggles to frame consistently. And, yeah, too many balls get by him. But he's "fine" for being an 18-year-old.
More than likely, Herrera will start the year in Peoria where he'll spend half the season as an 18-year-old and the other half as a 19-year-old. I'm willing to bet that he holds his own at the plate while not embarrassing himself behind it.
That being said (and welcome to the fickle bitch that is my mind), it definitely doesn't seem like he's a major league caliber catcher RIGHT NOW. Especially because of his arm and the perceived sluggishness for which he plays the position. As a result, the next question becomes "will he have enough power in his bat to play first base long term?"
Well, if I had to hedge I'd say "Herrera has 15-20 home run potential once he unlocks that part of his swing and turns some of these line drives into flyballs."
The question then becomes "how much of his contact tool and approach will he have to compromise to reach that power potential?"
To which I answer: "THIS IS JUST AN ARTICLE ON A COMPUTER FOR A BLOG! WHO KEEPS ASKING ME ALL OF THESE QUESTIONS?"
But if I'm answering honestly I'm saying "not much, I don't think." I really love his bat and his approach, and I think that it'll continue to perform as he climbs the ladder. Other than that, I feel like I owe it to myself to cut the evaluation off right here. In doing so, I want to remind everyone that this is an extremely talented young man that still has a LONG way to go before he makes the majors, IF he makes the majors. Don't over-hype him. Don't overthink his situation. Give him time to develop. Until then, enjoy yet another player with a high-ceiling and an advanced tool for his age that's thrived (so far) in the Cardinals' organization.
THE BOTTOM LINE
IT'S STILL WAY TOO EARLY TO EVEN JOKE ABOUT THERE BEING A BOTTOM LINE FOR THIS 18-YEAR-OLD. He might stick at catcher, but he might not (but probably won't). He might hit for power, but might not (this one is an actual "might not"). He possesses an advanced bat and feel for the strike zone and he's held his own while showing signs of getting better at every level that he's touched so far in the minors. Let's hope for a continuation of that during the 2019 season. Let's also hope that a promotion by the end of the season gives us a better idea of the type of prospect and catcher that Herrera is/can be.
MAY 1st UPDATE
What an impressive start to the 2019 season for the 18-year-old. His bat is special, I just don't know how special yet. The K rate is high, for sure. But it's still pretty good for an 18-year-old catcher in the Midwest League.
That being said, his defense still needs a lot of work, and Peoria is definitely better when they can have him DH than they are when he's behind the plate. Still, THERE'S PLENTY OF TIME FOR HIM TO FIGURE THAT OUT.
Thanks For Reading!!