- Rating: 3.57
- 2022 stats: 47 G, 111 AB, .189/.250/.207, 33 OPS+, -0.3 bWAR
- Date of birth: February 24, 1997 (25 years old)
- 2022 earnings: $480,750 (via Spotrac) - prorated league minimum
- 2023 status: On 40-man roster, Pre-Arb Eligible, 2 MiLB options remaining.
In one aspect Jose Herrera is a dinosaur: signed on July 8th, 2013, with over 9 years he is currently the player with most years in the Diamondbacks’ organisation.
“I am the only one who is left of all those years in the minor leagues.” - Jose Herrera when asked if he still has friends from his minor league years in the organisation in a 2022 interview available on YouTube (Spanish)
It shows how hard it is for those international prospects to reach the major leagues, especially for guys like Jose Herrera who aren’t super talented, although he was hardly a scrub in 2013: he got a $1,060,000 bonus.
Still, when Herrera signed he was barely 16 years old, but the organisation was obviously pretty high on him: instead of getting assigned to the DOSL, he was assigned to the Arizona rookie leagues in 2014. It doesn’t take long for the prospect watchers to pick his talent up: already in September 2014 FanGraphs ranks him as a 40 FV prospect, quoting “Herrera flashes plus defensive ability and some feel to hit, though there isn’t a ton of power and it’s a defense-over-offense profile.”
That description looks on-spot for his 2015 season, where he has an excellent .415 OBP, but Herrera doesn’t play that many games. In 2015 and in 2016 he shares catching duties, in Missoula even with two other players. FanGraphs in its reports hints multiple times at “mostly been hurt”. Not the most fun times, remembers Herrera.
“You miss your bed, a lot of times you sleep on the ground or on an inflatable bed in the franchises [...] I played in Missoula, Montana, [...] in 2015 [actually 2016, DBE]. Only, I don’t know, 3,000 people lived in that little village, there was nothing, just 2 supermarkets were nearby [...] we would have to walk almost 5 miles to go and buy some food and return walking.” - Jose Herrera in a 2022 interview available on YouTube (Spanish) when asked about his time in the minor leagues
Herrera is a slow riser. In 2017 he hits a brick wall in his first season in A ball, hitting a tough .208/.261/.290 and he spends two months on the IL with an undisclosed injury.
He repeats Kane County in 2018, but after just 1 game into the season gets a 50-game suspension for the use of methylhexaneamine and oxilofrine. Not the most powerful performance enhancing drugs, but still forbidden.
“DMAA is a neurological stimulant which causes a quick spike of energy similar to caffeine and other classical stimulants, but does so by different mechanisms in the brain. Due to its structural similarity to amphetamines, it gives a false positive in drug tested competitions for amphetamines and thus should not be used by competing athletes.” - Explanation on examine.com about Methylhexaneamine
“Oxilofrine is thought to increase adrenaline production, boosting endurance, focus, alertness and heart rate and increasing oxygenation of the blood.” - The Guardian explaining what oxilofrine is.
Herrera returns in June and ends with a .226/.268/.296 batting line in 32 games, still getting the bulk of the time behind home plate, probably because of the lack of any serious competition.
One green line in his performance is his throwing arm behind the plate. During his minor league years runners are consistently busted by the Venezuelan cop in over 60% of their attempts in stealing a base. Funny thing is, his defensive skills are lagging behind in his third season in Kane County, but he gets himself out of Illinois with a fine .832 OPS. He ends the season in Visalia in A+.
Bound to begin the season in A ball again, Herrera doesn’t play in 2020 but takes advantage of a favourable hitting environment in Amarillo in 2021 to earn a promotion to Reno. In AAA he has a fine but unspectacular offensive performance, but his 23 CS% is disappointing. However, the Diamondbacks decide to protect him from the Rule 5 draft anyhow and thus he is added to the 40-man roster in November 2021.
While already on the 40-man roster, at the end of March Jose Herrera got to hear from Torey Lovullo during Spring Training that he would make the Opening Day roster. With Daulton Varsho set for getting reps in the outfield, the designation would make him de facto Carson Kelly’s back up catcher.
With Varsho’s excellent outfield work and fine batting and thus a lack of real alternative (back-up) options for Carson Kelly, Jose Herrera got a real long look at the catcher position in the MLB.
That was a good thing, because his profile in his final years is interesting: good OBP skills, a switch hitter, ability to spread the ball all over the field and some average catching work, probably good enough to stick on the 40-man roster as a back-up. During his time on the roster, he became somewhat of Bumgarner’s personal catcher.
“I think we have a lot in common...he likes his horses, I like horses.” - Jose Herrera in a 2022 interview available on YouTube (Spanish) when asked about his relationship with Madison Bumgarner
Until the beginning of August Herrera hung onto the 26-man roster, but then the Diamondbacks decided that the defensive skills didn’t outplay the underwhelming offensive performance: a 27.4 K% and 7.3 BB%. It didn’t really matter if it was a fastball, a breaking ball or an off-speed pitch, Herrera wasn’t able to put any one of them away.
On the defensive side, he was behind Carson Kelly in almost any category: fielding, framing, blocking, except for throwing and the Caught-Stealing%.
So there wasn’t much that Herrera left behind to impress us in 2022 other than his longevity in the organisation and maybe he is best remembered for being the catcher when Bumgarner got tossed out of a game against the Marlins after the “hand incident”. So let’s enjoy that as a highlight of this player review.
“I saw it coming...just by the way Bumgarner was complaining and the umpire was watching him, already before the inning was over, I said ‘something is gonna happen’ [...] his character is present and they were checking his hands for almost two minutes, just looking for something to throw him out...I didn’t even have the time to hold him.” - Jose Herrera in a 2022 interview available on YouTube (Spanish) when asked about the incident in the Marlins’ game between the umpire and Madison Bumgarner
After getting demoted to Reno, Herrera finished the season there with a terrific .341/.423/.440 (125 wRC+), but also helped by a .367 BABIP, so highly unsustainable.
If Mike Hazen, as he hinted at, is looking for an upgrade over Carson Kelly, then what does that say about Jose Herrera?
As things stand now on the 40-man roster, Herrera is theoretically the back-up catcher. However, he could see himself out if he fails to impress in Spring Training and Reno and the organisation views others as better options in that role: either some veteran the team signs (there aren’t many palatable of those on the FA market either) or trades for or someone like Dominic Miroglio who is knocking on the door.
With Cooper Hummel gone, Dominic Miroglio is probably Herrera’s biggest internal threat at the moment but it looks like the organisation values the Latin American player more: Miroglio was left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft and could be on an other organisation soon.
There is also a chance that the team stays pat and doesn’t sign a new catcher because needs are higher in other areas and there aren’t any good alternatives.
Or maybe the team finds a catcher on a different team in some trade, who is willing to share platoon duties with Carson Kelly, forcing Herrera to get his reps in Reno.
Maybe it is just best to roll the dice and see what shows up on top.