If it's possible for a legitimate prospect to OPS over 1000 and add double digit stolen bases this far into the season while still remaining under the radar, then that is exactly what Rosell Herrera is doing. Signed by the Colorado Rockies out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, Herrera received a hefty $800,000 bonus. Signed as a shortstop, Herrera split time with Trevor Story at the position in rookie ball at Casper, before Story put himself on the prospect map in 2012. The Rockies have always believed in Herrera's talent despite some less than stellar statistical seasons, and that faith is being rewarded as Herrera breaks out this year.
Prior to his stellar 2013 season, Herrera had been a bit of a mixed bag when it came to results, despite always retaining the tools that got him signed in the first place. As a 17 year old, Herrera produced a 9.4% BB% against a 9% K%, which is impressive despite a weak 608 OPS and 90 wRC+. The Rockies challenged Herrera the next year (2011) with an assignment to Rookie level Casper where he continued to show a solid eye at the plate, with a 9.8% BB%. On the other hand, Herrera's strikeout rate jumped 13% to 22.5%. Nevertheless, he produced an 810 OPS on the season and received another promotion to start 2012. He began the 2012 season in short-season ball, where he recorded a modest 682 OPS while reducing both his strikeout rate (good!) and his walk rate (bad!), while earning a mid-season promotion to full season ball at Lo-A Asheville. The promotion might have proved to be too much too soon from a production standpoint, as he saw his slash line flag all the way down to .202/.271/.272. Starting 2013 back at Lo-A, it's been a brand new season for Herrera as his slash stats currently sit at .342/.429/.579 for the Tourists. On top of the slash stats, Herrera has smashed 12 home runs (double his career high for a full season) and added 14 stolen bases in 19 attempts, good for a 178 wRC+. He's also seen a spike in his walk rate, all the way up to 12.3%, while bringing his strikeout rate from 20.7% to 18.2%. While he is repeating the level, he might end up spending just about a full season at Lo-A if he earns a mid-season promotion, and it's hard to say he doesn't deserve one at this rate. Herrera is rounding into a complete player from a fantasy standpoint, with the potential for double-digit home runs and stolen bases on top impressive walk rates and a good batting average.
A switch hitter, Herrera has a better swing from the left side, showing more bat speed and more power as a lefty, which has bore itself out in the numbers as all 12 of his 2013 home runs have come from the left side. He has remarkable hand-eye coordination, resulting in impressive bat-to-ball ability from both sides, with a .346 average from the left side and a .326 average from the right. At 6'3/180 Herrera has plenty of room to fill out and add power; a tantalizing proposition for someone who has already hit double digit homers in only 228 at-bats thus far this year. Scouts see potential for an average hit-tool, above-average power and plus speed from a defender on the left-side of the infield. It remains a possibility that Herrera could out-grow 3rd base as well, but he has smooth actions at shortstop right now and enough arm for the position. Those actions would likely play well at third base if the time/need arises. Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus wrote in June of 2011 that
It remains to be seen if Herrera can translate his raw tools into game action; he's only a week into his stateside debut. If he lives up to his projections, Herrera could be a first-division regular with the ability to hit for average, reach base at a high clip, the strength/swing to produce at least average power (possibly more), and the defensive chops to stay up the middle, even if his body proves to be too much man for shortstop.
I reached out to David Lee, sportswriter for The Augusta Chronicle and beat writer for the San Francisco Giants' Lo-A affiliate, who has seen Herrera several times this year. While not a scout, David has a good eye and he added that Herrera
[Had] solid lift and power potential in the swing. He showed a good hit tool, but the pop he showed from that frame impressed me greatly.
If you don't already, give David a follow as he is always providing great content from the South Atlantic League.
It looks like 2013 is Herrera's statement to the world that he can indeed translate those raw tools into game action. The ceiling, as Jason said is a first division regular with impressive, though not elite tools and they're playing well in a league that he's repeating. A promotion would seem likely given the time spent at Lo-A and the performance to date, but Trevor Story is playing shortstop in Hi-A for the Modesto Nuts, and that could complicate things for Rosell's future. Still, at just 20 years old, Herrera could spend the full year at Lo-A without it damaging his prospect stock. As it stands, he's faced a pitcher younger than him in just 17% of his at-bats. He'd be one of the younger regulars in Hi-A if he does receive a promotion. I wouldn't say to act quickly on Herrera as he's yet to receive much hype and you can use that time to see whether Herrera is more steak than sizzle. He's one of my favorite sleeper prospects at the moment and I did take a chance, using a pick on him in my 10 NL-Only league with 30 man farm systems, though I do caution that at this stage he's a deep deep stash only. Use this is as an opportunity to acquaint yourself with his name, and if you see the production continue as the season goes on, you can make the choice to snag him in shallower leagues.
David Lee/The Augusta Chronicle