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Rockies prospect rankings: No. 18 Rosell Herrera heating up, still underperforming

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Though he's been better lately, Herrera is in the midst of a second consecutive concerning season. He's losing some steam as a prospect because of it.

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PuRP No. 18: Rosell Herrera (401 points, 31 ballots) | Winter 2014 Ranking: 10 | High Ballot 10, Mode Ballot 20

It seems like Rosell Herrera has been a prospect forever. Indeed, the 22-year-old out of the Dominican Republic has received votes in every PuRPs list I've tallied points for (since the spring 2010 list). After signing for a $550,000 bonus in 2009, Herrera played for the DSL Rockies in 2010 then the Casper Ghosts in 2011, putting up roughly league average results in both stops despite being young for the league. In 2012, Herrera began to show some warts as a prospect, struggling mightily in his full season ball debut (against pitchers three years older) before getting demoted to short season A Tri-City, where he was again roughly league average.

Everything seemed to click for Herrera in his return trip to Asheville in 2013, as the then-20 year-old won the South Atlantic League MVP award with a crazy .343/.419/.515 line (168 wRC+) against pitchers that were still over a year older than him. That season got Herrera into some top 100 prospect lists (#86 for Baseball America, #99 for MLB.com) before the 2014 season. The strong season plus a strong scouting profile also led the Rockies to protect Herrera from the Rule 5 draft in late 2013 by placing him on the 40 man roster.

However, Herrera struggled significantly in his first taste of High-A last year -- both with a nagging wrist injury that limited him to 302 plate appearances, and at the plate against players that were about two years older than him. In all, he produced a poor .244/.302/.335 line (68 wRC+) in Modesto. On the bright side, Herrera received Colorado's lone spot in last year's Futures Game as part of the World team (batting practice video below). Herrera hit two line drive singles in the game.

Prior to this season, the Rockies made a long-rumored decision to move Herrera off of the shortstop position, transitioning him to center field for this season while keeping him in Modesto. Anyone hoping for a similar result to the last time Herrera repeated a level has thus far been disappointed by another trying season for him in the California League, now against age appropriate competition. In 370 plate appearances this year for the Nuts, Herrera has a .255/.311/.356 line (87 wRC+), a significant improvement from last year but still below expectations.

Wilson Karaman of Minor League Ball scouted Herrera earlier this year with the Nuts. There's a lot of good information about Herrera in the linked article (I recommend reading the whole thing), but here's the highlights:

[Herrera] lacks the consistency of a repeatable swing, and minus the kind of freakish hand-eye coordination of a guy like Tapia it's just not a strong offensive baseline. He generates solid bat speed with good hip rotation and wrist strength, and he can lay into a pitch with impressive force when he does make contact and square a ball. There might even be legitimately above-average raw power in there ... But I see the tool ultimately playing down to a 40 or 45 in-game projection on account of contact and approach issues.

His balance against off-speed pitches was a notable deficit, and it's an area where he's likely to get eaten alive at higher levels. His timing is consistently geared towards fastball speed, and when he doesn't get one there are just so many moving parts that making an on-the-fly adjustment becomes a tall task. The questions about his timing and ability to execute his swing consistently are significant enough that I have a hard time seeing his hit tool make it to 50.

In the field Herrera's conversion to centerfield is off to a rocky start. His angles and reads on balls remain quite raw, and his footwork in gathering the ball and positioning himself to throw on the move was notably poor. He has the athleticism and above-average, possibly plus foot speed to project above-average fielding ability, and he showed a strong arm that may very well work as a plus asset in left or center with better fielding control. But especially given the late start to his outfield career his defensive skillset lags significantly below the level at present.

Overall it's still a quite raw package, and he makes for a high risk prospect. There isn't a standout plus tool in the shed, so he'll need to hit the high end of his development profile pretty much across the board if he's going to project a useful Major League future. And he's got a ways to go in doing that.

I'd say that is a pretty good summary for the kind of prospect Herrera is today, despite those prospect accolades he received as recently as last year. In order to be the strong major league piece he was projected to be recently, Herrera will quite simply need to hit better and with more power. The additional problem that Herrera faces is that, despite his youth, time is running out for him to prove he can make it to the big leagues because after 2015 Herrera will have only one minor league option season to use if the Rockies even decide to keep him on the 40 man roster.

Therefore, the Rockies will have to call up Herrera to begin 2017 if they want him on the major league roster, else they will likely lose him to another team if they take him off the 40 man roster and he decides to enter minor league free agency. Since he still seems far away from the Show, Herrera is a potential candidate to be removed from the 40 man roster this off-season if the Rockies don't think he'll be ready by 2017. With that knowledge in mind, Herrera was downgraded to 20th on my personal ballot despite his prospect pedigree. We'll see if Herrera can turn it around by the end of the year, but if he doesn't I might not see Herrera's name when I tally the next PuRPs list.

Contract Status: 2009 free agent (Dominican Republic), 40-man roster, one option remaining

MLB ETA: 2017