With help from Yadi, Herrera poised to open '24 with Cards

February 2nd, 2024

MIAMI -- After brief stints in the Major Leagues in 2022 and 2023, seems destined to open the 2024 season with the Cardinals' big league club. St. Louis president of baseball operations John Mozeliak indicated at the Winter Meetings in December that the 23-year-old catcher had a “good path” to doing so this year, less than three weeks after Andrew Knizner was non-tendered by the club.

Herrera has been busy this offseason. He helped Federales de Chiriquí win the 2023-24 championship in his native Panama. And on Friday, after going 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs in Federales’ win over the Curacao Suns in the 2024 Caribbean Series at loanDepot park, he spoke about what awaits him at Cardinals Spring Training this month.

“They told me that there’s a good chance that I’ll be with the big league club,” Herrera said. “It’s a big responsibility and I’m thankful for the opportunity. I’ve done a good job and I’ve matured as a player.”

Ranked as St. Louis’ No. 4 prospect as recently as 2022 before “graduating” out of MLB Pipeline’s lists, Herrera was named the Cardinals’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2023 after slashing .297/.451/.500 with 27 doubles, 10 home runs and 60 RBIs in 83 games at Triple-A Memphis. His offense has been questioned less than his defense since he was signed as an international free agent in 2016. But one familiar Cardinals face -- also present at the Caribbean Series as manager of Puerto Rico’s Criollos de Caguas -- has been a big help for Herrera: Yadier Molina.

“I feel like he’s played a tremendous role in my career,” said Herrera of Molina, who rejoined the Cardinals as a special assistant in December after his retirement as an active player following the 2022 season. “He’s helped me a lot. He gave me good perspective on defense and a lot of advice on receiving, blocking and how to anticipate the play.”

If Herrera indeed breaks camp with the big league club, he figures to share catching duties with Willson Contreras, who had an up-and-down first year in St. Louis -- offensively and defensively -- but seemingly righted the ship in the season’s second half.

“Willson and I get along great,” Herrera said. “I feel he’s like a brother. We help each other. I feel like this is going to be a great year, together with him.”

As part of that preparation, Herrera will look to keep improving behind the plate, in particular resuming his work with Molina, who, even as an active player, found the time to help the younger catcher with his defense.

“The way he’s helped me is incredible, someone with all his knowledge,” Herrera said. “A lot of guys just dedicate their time to their own development, but he’s helped me a lot. He’s someone that talks baseball all the time, and that’s how someone like me can learn. He poses situations, and if I do something wrong once, it doesn’t happen again.

“I’m excited to work with Yadi and I’m happy he’s coming back to St. Louis. The fans want him back, too.”