By Todd Zolecki, Phillies.com
SAN DIEGO — The Phillies believe Rule 5 Draft pick Odubel Herrera is moreEnder Inciarte than Michael Martinez. That would be a good thing.
The Phillies selected two players in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft, which capped a busy week at the Winter Meetings. They selected Herrera, an outfielder/infielder who hit a combined .315 last season with Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco, from the Rangers with the eighth pick. They also selected left-hander Andrew Oliver from the Pirates. He went 3-4 with a 2.53 ERA and 13 saves with Triple-A Indianapolis.
“We feel like we’re taking a shot on a prospect,” pro scouting director Mike Ondo said about Herrera. “We’ve always viewed this guy as an offensive utility guy. The difference is this year, toward the end of the year, he started playing in the outfield. He’s a good athlete. He has some speed. He obviously has a feel for hitting. We like the bat speed.”
One National League scout raved about Herrera’s hitting ability. Herrera has played mostly infield in the past, but he’s recently played extensively in the outfield, including in winter ball. The Phils believe Herrera’s future is in the outfield, and he is expected to get a good look there in Spring Training.
Asked if he compared at all to Martinez, the utility player whom the Phillies selected in the Rule 5 Draft in 2010, Ondo said, “I like to think it’s more like taking a shot on an Inciarte-type of guy than Martinez.”
The Phils selected Inciarte in the Rule 5 Draft in 2012. He did not stick with the club, but he played pretty well in his rookie season with the D-backs this past season, hitting .278 with 18 doubles, two triples, four home runs, 27 RBIs, 19 stolen bases and a .677 OPS in 447 plate appearances.
The Phillies could use somebody like that in the system.
Meanwhile, Martinez has a .482 OPS in 440 career plate appearances, which is the 24th-lowest OPS in baseball history for a non-pitcher with more than 400 plate appearances.
“We think have something with the bat,” Ondo said about Herrera. “He’s going to turn 23 at the end of the month. There is some excitement to this guy with the skill set. We’re taking a chance on a young guy with a chance to hit and some speed. Obviously, there is versatility, but the thing we’re focusing on is the outfield.”
Oliver has good stuff, but he also has struggled with his command. He has averaged 5.8 walks per nine innings in his Minor League career, while striking out 9.2 batters per nine innings. Ondo hopes the control improves.
“We’re excited about taking a chance on this guy,” Ondo said. “This year was the first year in the bullpen for him. Obviously, the walks are going to be one of the first things that stand out. But, I mean, you have two plus pitches coming with this guy. He’s a left-hander at 94-97 [mph]. It’s a slider he can get both-sided hitters out with. You’re taking two big weapons, and we’ll put him out there. Strike one is important to him, to be able to attack. We’ll put another big arm in there as an option. If some things come together, we hope we have something.”
The Phillies lost three players in the Draft. The Indians claimed right-hander Delvi Francisco, who went 3-3 with a 7.44 ERA in 30 games between Class A Lakewood and Class A Williamsport. The Dodgers claimed outfielder Peter Lavin, who batted .287 in 128 games with Double-A Reading and Class A Advanced Clearwater. The Rockies claimed right-hander Kyle Simon, who went 5-4 with a 3.93 ERA in 46 games last season between Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley.