Acquired: Traded to St. Louis for Marc Rzepczynski, July 2013.
2014: Peoria (A), Palm Beach (A+)
(You can find the primer on the 20-80 grading scale here)
H/T to Jason Payne, aka "Tackle Box for the video.
Of all the minor league teams from 2014, Peoria is the one I happened to see the most in person last summer, mostly due to being close to a number of different Midwest League stops. Juan Herrera spent most of the year with the Chiefs so I saw him plenty during the early part of the year and then again in August.
I really wanted to be more impressed with him than I was.
Defensively, I don't think there's any doubt that he can stay at shortstop for the long term. He's got the arm to make plays to his right and good range either way but I was most impressed on how well he went to his glove side to snag balls headed up the middle. There were few, if any, four hop ground ball singles up the middle against the Chiefs last summer. Herrera has good hands and a quick transition and it's pretty easy to see why so many Penn league scouts liked his defense from reports back in 2013.
Offensively, though, there's a few questions. Herrera's slash line looks a lot worse than it actually was in 2014 mostly due to how good the rest of the Midwest League was at suppressing runs: You know your league is tough on hitters when a .664 OPS is good for a .331 wOBA. That also doesn't take into account home park, and Peoria plays in one of the toughest hitting parks anywhere in A ball. So there's a few grains of salt handy to make the rest of this dish taste a little bit better.
Juan Herrera hits like someone Lou Brown got ahold of as a kid, saw his running ability, and gave him infamous "Willie Mays Hayes" treatment. Just about every other ball in play off of his bat is on the ground somewhere and that's standard throughout his pro career thus far (career 47.7% GB rate in MiLB). While he may "run like Mays" and make plenty of contact, he's only been moderately effective at stealing bases up to A ball (a 68% success rate thus far in his career). If you can't swipe 85% or better of the bags you attempt to steal in the low minors, it's probably best to just write that off as a skill that's going to provide value when the catchers are far better and the pitchers are more keen to limiting the running game.
Herrera makes a lot of contact and his approach seems sound: I saw quite a few 4+ pitch PA's from him despite the below average walk rate. Most all of his extra base hits came via his speed or from a well placed ball down the line; he wasn't lining the ball hard into the gaps for doubles -- mostly just slapping the ball around a lot as you see in the soft liner to second base in the video clip above. Given his size and age, it's hard to see a lot more power showing up at any point in the future either, which limits his ceiling considerably as a potential big league prospect.
Starting SS for the Palm Beach Cardinals and hopefully hitting the weight room hard this offseason to pack some muscle onto his frame. Wouldn't be shocked to see a mid-season promotion to AA, but that mostly depends on what is happening with Aledmys Diaz more than anything Herrera might do. Upside is probably a utility infielder on a good team or a poor hitting SS on a bad team for a few years.