When Elian Herrera was recalled to the Dodgers more than a week ago, I’m sure almost no one, besides maybe Chris Jackson of the Albuquerque Examiner, knew who he was.
Now, after eight games, he’s making his mark on an injury-riddled team and he might not be the one taking the first flight back to Albuquerque when the rest of the infield gets healthy (starting potentially with Jerry Hairston, Jr. this weekend). He has a .346/.393/.462 line in those eight games, and while there’s absolutely no way he keeps that kind of production up, he’s off to a nice start in the majors.
If I had to guess, I’d say Tuesday night’s hero, Ivan De Jesus, would be the odd man out when Hairston returns Friday.
When I watch Herrera play, I see his vast versatility and I think of old friend Jolbert Cabrera.
Cabrera was the Dodgers utility player extraordinaire during the 2003 season. He posted a .282/.332/.438 line with six home runs, 37 RBI, 32 doubles, and 43 runs scored in 380 plate appearances. Not great, but certainly really good for a utility guy, as Cabrera was a key bench piece for those Dodger teams.
To me, there’s a lot of Cabrera in Herrera (sorry for the pun).
In fact, Herrera has even better on-base and base-stealing ability (based on minor league numbers) than Cabrera, so his impact potential seems greater — if he can keep it up.
Both Cabrera and Herrera possess the defensive flexibility that teams covet in utility men. Cabrera played every position except pitcher and catcher in his one season with the Dodgers, while Herrera has already played second base, third base, and center field for the team. In the minors, he’s played every position except catcher, so he has those same versatile qualities. And yes, he has even appeared in one game as a pitcher.
Now, it could be a case of the league not knowing a lick about Herrera yet, thus he’s producing (albeit in a small sample size) only for now. But the point is that Herrera, 27, could be someone to keep an eye on, not somebody to flippantly dismiss, which is the outlook most seem to have.
We don’t know what the future holds for him, but he has already gone from unknown lifetime minor leaguer to surprisingly effective bench player for the MLB’s best team, so counting him out has usually been a bad bet.