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Colorado Rockies Spring Training Storylines: Rosell Herrera

Spring Training is just around the corner, as Colorado Rockies pitchers and catchers report on the 15th of February. It’s time to start gearing for the 2014 season, and this Spring Training Storylines article is meant to help you get ready for the season. Today, we’ll look at young prospect Rosell Herrera.

With all the talk about starting pitchers Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler, Rosell Herrera has sort of gone under the radar. I understand why; Gray and Butler are the two most highly rated, most talented, and most important players in the Rockies farm system. Pitching is always the problem in Colorado, and fans want and expect Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler to help in the high altitude. So yeah, Gray and Butler are great, but fans are missing someone in Herrera.

Rosell Herrera was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 before he turned 17. He struggled in his first three seasons as a pro, and dropped off a lot of people’s radars. Last year, though, he had a breakout season in A ball, with a .343/.419/.515 triple slash rate to go along with 16 home runs and 21 steals in 546 plate appearances. He won the South Atlantic League MVP award to go along with the batting title.

Herrera’s offensive improvement was thanks in large part to a smoother swing. Herrera, who is the rare switch hitter who can hit very well from both sides, was able to tap into his considerable size (he is 6’3″) and easily set his career high in home runs (he had nine homers total in his first three seasons). As a result of his improvement, Herrera was invited to spring training.

Thanks to that height, Herrera might not be able to stay at shortstop as he fills out and gets more powerful. Of course, the Rockies have a guy named Troy Tulowitzki manning short, so Herrera might have a better chance of success if he moves to second base, where Colorado has a huge hole. Herrera is still just 21, but the Oliver projection system, courtesy of Brian Cartwright, projects that he would have a 2.2 WAR if he got 600 plate appearances in large part of his impact defending.

Second base happens to be one of the Rockies biggest battles. D.J. LeMahieu, the favorite to man second on opening day, is projected for just 1.4 WAR over 600 plate appearances. So can Herrera make the opening day roster with an amazing Spring Training? Absolutely not, but he can definitely accelerate his path with a hot Spring Training.

I think Herrera will likely open the 2014 season in A+ ball, but with a nice spring he could definitely open in AA. Herrera, the Rockies’ fourth ranked prospect according to MLB.com, is by no means a finished product; he’s still just 180 pounds despite his height, and still hasn’t played above A ball. But he was tremendous last season, and could well move to a position of need. Rosell Herrera is still a while away from Coors Field, but thanks to his great size, breakout season last year, and tremendous upside, he is a player to watch in Arizona.

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