Red-hot Herrera slugging into Phillies history

Red-hot Herrera slugging into Phillies history

ATLANTA -- Everybody is studying the Phillies these days, trying to find the players that will be on the roster in a couple years.

Got to have Odubel Herrera on there, right?

Herrera tripled twice in Wednesday night's 3-2 victory over the Braves at SunTrust Park. He has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball since June 1, and despite his capacity to frustrate his manager, coaches, teammates and fans with occasional mental lapses and excessive bat flips, his first three seasons with the Phillies (a 10.6 WAR, according to Baseball Reference) have ranked among the best in the Phillies' past 50 seasons. Only Mike Schmidt (11.7) and Scott Rolen (10.9) have been better.

"I'm going to keep growing up and getting better," Herrera said.

Herrera is hitting .341 with 22 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, 30 RBIs and a .970 OPS since June 1. He is 19th out of 152 qualified hitters in baseball in OPS in that stretch. He raised his batting average from .218 to .284 and his OPS from .589 to .793.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said before the All-Star break that Herrera would raise his batting average to at least .280 by the end of the season.

He might have undersold him.

"I wanted to say .290-plus, but I just tried to be a little conservative because he didn't look good at that time," Mackanin said. "This guy is a .290-plus hitter and if he gains a little more discipline at the plate he's a potential batting champion in my opinion. He's got great hand-eye coordination and there's no reason why he can't improve."

Herrera's Little League homer

Herrera thinks he can win a batting title.

"For sure," he said. "I just need to stay focused all season long and keep working. That's all."

But is it hard for him to stay focused?

"It's hard but you have to do it," he said. "This game is hard. You have to do it and I'm going to."

Herrera hit a pitch for a homer Tuesday that was a little more than eight inches off the ground, according to Statcast™. It was the lowest ball hit for a homer since Statcast™ started recording data in 2015.

"Everyone was kind of just looking around at each other and saying, 'Really? He just hit that,'" Jerad Eickhoff said. "He does that all the time. There's balls that seem like they almost hit him and he'll foul them off and get another pitch. That's something that makes him pretty special, hitting those pitches that are more than likely pitcher's pitches."

Herrera's two-run home run

Herrera is on pace to have the best year of his career. And that is not including his defense. Herrera is third among 17 qualified center fielders in UZR (9.4) and Defensive Runs Above Average (11.0), according to FanGraphs. Only Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton and Atlanta's Ender Inciarte rank better.

The Phillies have a plethora of outfield prospects in the system, including their two most recent first-round picks in the Draft in Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley. Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams are promising young outfielders already in the big leagues. Dylan Cozens has flashed big-time power in Triple-A.

But the Phillies will have to find three outfielders that can outproduce Herrera on a yearly basis to bump him from the team's plans.

The Phillies' front office believes in him. It signed him to a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension in December. He is the only player signed beyond this season -- just another reason to think Herrera will be around a while.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.