JUPITER, Fla. -- Catcher Ivan Herrera, the Cardinals’ No. 4 prospect, signed out of Panama in July 2016 for $200,000. He’s quickly established himself as one of the better catching prospects in baseball, one who carries a career .309/.397/.431 line into the 2020 season. Still a teenager, the Cardinals thought
JUPITER, Fla. -- Catcher Ivan Herrera, the Cardinals’ No. 4 prospect, signed out of Panama in July 2016 for $200,000. He’s quickly established himself as one of the better catching prospects in baseball, one who carries a career .309/.397/.431 line into the 2020 season. Still a teenager, the Cardinals thought enough of him to send him to the Arizona Fall League in '19, where he more than held his own.
MLB.com: You’re in big league camp. How excited were you to get invited to come and what has the experience been like?
Ivan Herrera: It’s been a really good experience for me because I’m getting stuff from [Yadier Molina], [Matt] Wieters, really good catchers. They’re Gold Glove [Award winners] and they have a lot of things that can help me in the future. Being here with the big league guys, hitting and stuff, everything is going to help me in my season.
MLB.com: In terms of defense, what are some of the things you’ve been able to learn from them in terms of what you can bring to your work behind the plate this season?
Herrera: We’re working on receiving and blocking. I need more work on receiving because I have to move better now. I’m really getting it. I’m really better now, but I have to work really hard for it.
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MLB.com: Are there times you’re working with him and you can’t believe you’re talking to Yadi Molina?
Herrera: It’s a dream. When I was a kid, I always watched Molina play. He’s fantastic. He’s a really good catcher. He’s going to be a future Hall of Famer, so I’m really happy to be here working with him.
MLB.com: You also get to catch really good pitchers. I saw you catching a bullpen for Adam Wainwright. What’s that like?
Herrera: It’s a really good experience for me. They tell me things, like how I see him throwing that day. I’m really happy to be playing with them.
MLB.com: Last time we talked, it was at the Arizona Fall League. What were you able to take from that experience that helped you get ready for this season.
Herrera: I faced really good pitchers in Arizona. It was really hard for me at the beginning, but then I got really comfortable and I made adjustments and I could hit there.
MLB.com: When you were first here in the United States, the Cardinals sent you up to Double-A for a week so you could see what it was like. Do you look back at that and realize how great that was for you to see?
Herrera: I was playing here in the Gulf Coast League and I was thinking, "Oh my God, the sun is really hot." And when I went there, I realized "I want to play there. I want to be at the next level." So I started to work really hard, play hard, do the best I can, be a good clubhouse guy and make adjustments during the season, try to be there as soon as possible and then to Triple-A, the big leagues, trying to make it.
MLB.com: Being from Panama, there’ve been a lot of good players from Panama, but I don’t know if people think about Panama when they think about great baseball players. They think Mariano Rivera, obviously. How important is it for you to get up there and represent and show how good baseball players from Panama are?
Herrera: Basically, you represent your family first, your country, and you represent your team. You do the best you can every day, go out and play hard. Everybody thinks Mariano Rivera. We have Rod Carew, too, a Hall of Famer. If you play hard, everyone is going to know what you can do. It doesn’t matter your country. If you play hard, you’re going to be a very good player.
MLB.com: You grew up idolizing Yadi Molina, but you’re from Panama. What’s more exciting to you: Meeting and being with Yadi Molina or getting to hang out with Mariano Rivera?
Herrera: I know Mariano Rivera. I used to catch his son’s bullpens. He’s a really good guy. He’s really humble, too. He’s got a lot of experience from the big leagues. He helped me, too, how I can call a game and that kind of stuff. And being with Yadi Molina is really exciting for me. I can’t tell how I feel right now, to be in big league camp.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.