Herrera brings passion, discipline to Phils

Herrera brings passion, discipline to Phils

SAN DIEGO -- Tonight, Odubel Herrera will suit up in yet another All-Star Game. This one, however, will be in a league of its own.

Just two years ago, Herrera was a little-known player in a prospect-rich Rangers organization, performing well enough to earn Texas League (Double-A) All-Star honors for a second straight season but going unprotected in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft. That allowed the Phillies to add him that December, and since then he's risen at a rapid pace.

On Monday he appeared at media day in advance of the Midsummer Classic (7:30 tonight on FOX), and he was joined by his proud parents, Odubel Sr. and Nerida, who flew to San Diego to share in this special day.

But for as much as Herrera is a prominent part of the Phillies' future, the 24-year-old leadoff hitter carries great appeal in the way he reminds folks of the last Phillies powerhouse.

With a style resembling that of Shane Victorino -- the club's other golden Rule 5 ticket (from 2004) -- the native Venezuelan brings a great deal of passion to the ballpark each day. A bat-flipper following homers and sac flies alike -- and a clapper after taking his walks -- Herrera has made major contributions in multiple categories this year. Entering the Midsummer Classic, he ranks fourth among National League outfielders in on-base percentage (.378), fifth in hits (96) and 10th in batting average (.294). He's also chipped in 12 steals.

Much of Herrera's success can be ascribed to his improved plate discipline, as he's walked at an impressive 11.6 percent clip following a meager 5.2 rate as a rookie.

"Last year, I was striking out a lot. During the offseason, it was a goal that I put to myself to improve [my plate discipline]. And I think that's what we've seen," he said.

"He's a special guy," said Phillies manager Pete Mackanin. "I call him a hit collector. I don't know how he does it sometimes."

Odubel Sr. agreed with the skipper's sentiments.

"Basically, [when he reached] the age of 12, I started to realize he could be a great player, possibly a professional player," Herrera's father said at MLB's media day on Monday. Both of Herrera's parents are visiting the United States, carefully following Phillies games.

Despite a few bumps in the road along the way, the sophomore Major Leaguer has accomplished something rare in earning All-Star accolades just 19 months after his Rule 5 selection. Players picked in the December Draft are essentially viewed as lottery tickets, with only a select few making it big.

While the 42-48 Phillies have room to improve during the season's second half, core pieces are already in place in Herrera, slugging third baseman Maikel Franco and several promising starters.

"It makes me feel really good to be on a team with so much young talent -- talent that can evolve," Herrera said,

But with multiple promising prospects in Philadelphia's pipeline, including several young outfielders, some have speculated that Herrera could one day revive his work as an infielder.

"I came up as a second baseman, but now I am playing outfield. I am feeling good in the outfield and will continue to work hard [out there]," he said.

Regardless of where he plays, Herrera will almost certainly continue to contribute a keen eye at the plate, enviable athleticism and an unbridled love for the game.

Zachary Finkelstein is a fantasy editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.