"He's the kind of outfielder who wants to catch every ball," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "He doesn't play away from mistakes. He doesn't play away from errors. He wants the ball hit to him. Even if it's not, he wants to catch it."
It's that style of play that led Mackanin, after the Phillies' 6-2 loss to the Braves, to describe Herrera, who never played in the Majors and had next-to-zero experience in the outfield before 2015, as "fearless" and "aggressive." And as of late, that style has played off for the rookie.
In 23 games since June 26, Herrera has raised his batting average from .243 to .282. Over that same span, his OPS has jumped more than 100 points. And with Ben Revere no longer an option in center field after he was traded to Toronto on Friday, Herrera's increasing contributions have become even more valuable to the Phillies.
Take Sunday for example. Herrera went 1-for-4 with an RBI single in the fifth. He also made a sliding catch in the outfield on a sinking liner while fighting the difficult angle of the sun that affected outfielders all day. He also ended the Braves' four-run fifth inning by throwing out catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who was trying to stretch a single into a double.
Sunday was the kind of day where Herrera's innate aggression helped him as an outfielder. But in Mackanin's opinion, Herrera's growth as a hitter has come from how well he's listened to coaching and been able to quell his aggression with a bat in his hands.
"Offensively, he's coming," Mackanin said. "He went through that lull earlier in the season where his average fell to about .250. It seemed like he learned to tone himself down a little bit. Not be so aggressive against certain pitchers. He's learning what to expect from certain pitchers. For a guy that hit .280 as a rookie -- he might possibly hit .300 -- he just looks confident at the plate."
With Revere no longer on the roster, Herrera's opportunities to play are going to magnify; he is now the Phillies' center fielder rather than a player who shares time. And based on the timeline of Herrera's development process, Revere's trade came at the right time.
"He's just a raw talent that's starting to get a little more polish to him," Mackanin said. "He's got the ability with his eye-hand coordination. He hits mistakes. He's gaining ground as the season goes on."