Rosell Herrera had all the makings of a top prospect back in 2013.
Then just 20 years old, Herrera hit .343/.419/.515 with 16 home runs, 76 RBI and 21 stolen bases with Low-A Asheville, earning South Atlantic League MVP honors. Baseball America named him the Rockies’ No. 3 prospect.
He only played 72 games at High-A Modesto in 2014, batting a modest .242/.302/.335, dropping him to No. 9 on the prospect list. Herrera came off the list entirely after a healthy but otherwise listless .260/.314/.354 campaign when he repeated at Modesto in 2015.
“Players develop at different times,” Isotopes manager Glenallen Hill said. “He’s young enough to where if he’s productive enough there will be some interest in what he can do.”
Quietly, Herrera began to get himself back on track at Double-A Hartford last season, and after a slow start, he is now starting to heat up for Albuquerque.
“He has changed his mindset and the way that his body moves, and he has done a great job of being very adamant of how his body moves softly, how he moves to get into a great hitting position,” said Isotopes hitting coach Darin Everson, who also managed Herrera at Hartford last year. “He’s always had great hands and great stretch with his body. That’s all good, but if you don’t get into a good hitting position it doesn’t matter anyway. He’s getting on time, as you see in the box, it’s a lot slower in how he’s moving his body, which allows his hands to work the right way.”
Herrera hit .292/.374/.379 last season with the Yard Goats and was hitting .271/.336/.346 entering Wednesday night’s game with the Isotopes, where he went 3-for-5 with his first home run of the year, falling a double shy of the cycle as his team lost a heartbreaker 6-5 to the visiting El Paso Chihuahuas.
“For me, I’m really working on my swing, because when the season started I was struggling,” Herrera said. “I’m working on hitting the ball to the opposite field. That’s a big thing for me, the middle to the opposite field.”
He did just that Wednesday night, when he was batting left handed and hit his first-inning homer to left and then his triple to left-center in the ninth.
Herrera has been leading off while starting in left field with Raimel Tapia currently in the big leagues, seeing a lot more playing time than earlier in the year.
“I see better every pitch, because when the season started I couldn’t see the breaking ball very well,” Herrera said. “I’m really aggressive but I wasn’t in control. Right now I feel better and I have to keep working at what I’m doing.”
Herrera regained his confidence with the adjustments he made last season but Triple-A still required more changes.
“Last year was a very good season for me, but this year is a different level,” he said. “They’re pitching (me) different and I have to make adjustments. I have to really work to make adjustments and see the ball better. That’s the difference.”
Having Everson in his corner for the second year in a row has been a big help for Herrera.
“That’s big for me because Darin knows me about hitting and he helps me and supports me every day,” Herrera said. “My teammates, too … if they see something bad, they tell me, and that’s good for me (too).”
Everson has been pleased with Herrera’s in-season turnaround.
“I’m excited about him because he’s a weapon,” Everson said. “Offensively he’s a weapon because he can run so well. Every time he’s in the box he can hit the ball hard and put some energy into a baseball.”
In addition to his time in the outfield, Herrera has gotten in two starts at second base and five at third base. He was a third baseman/shortstop when he had his first breakout season back in 2013.
“I was an infielder a long time ago but I remember,” Herrera said with a smile. “When I signed I was a shortstop. That’s good for me, trying different positions. That’s a big thing for me, showing I can play other places.”
Herrera and his teammates will look to bounce back from blowing a 5-1 lead Wednesday and aim for a series split against the Chihuahuas today at 12:05 p.m.