As Bobby mentioned in his notes the other day, Rosell Herrera has impressed in the first few weeks of camp. Initially, the 27 year-old non-roster invitee seemed ticketed for Triple-A as depth. Now, a major league gig seems like a legitimate possibility.
Injuries have opened things up on the 26-man roster, but it’s not like Herrera had no chance at the final spot even with a fully healthy team. The Yankees are good at scooping up unheralded players, and perhaps Herrera is the next one. Now, one look at his lifetime wRC+ (63 in over 400 plate appearances) isn’t inspiring in spite of his versatility and speed. That said, the Yankees are very thoughtful about player acquisition, including its non-roster invitees. It’s hard to rule out anyone for the big league roster knowing that.
The Yankees have a recent of history of successes with seemingly random players. Whether it’s Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, or Mike Tauchman, there’s clearly a method to the Yankees’ madness. That’s not to say Herrera is next in line for a breakout, but the Yankees have earned the benefit of the doubt on their under the radar moves. Again, that doesn’t mean Herrera is a budding star. But could he surprise everyone? Wouldn’t be the first time the Yankees pulled this trick.
Take it with a heaping grain of salt, but Herrera has been really good in Grapefruit League play. In an incredibly small sample size, he’s 7-for-14 with a double and a triple thus far. Those numbers are virtually meaningless, but they also don’t hurt his cause. Going 0-for-14 could have taken him out of the running completely.
Move past the stats, though. The manager’s and front office’s perspective is what matters most. And from that standpoint, Herrera is doing well. Fast forward to about 7:50 in this video and you’ll hear Aaron Boone praise Herrera completely unsolicited. That’s not the only time Boone has spoke well of Herrera, either. The skipper told the media that the utility player has opened eyes in camp. All of this is a good sign for Rosell.
So he’s performed well and Boone likes him. That’s a big part of the equation, but he also has to beat out other players for a roster spot. Three of the four bench pieces are all but sorted out (Kyle Higashioka, Tyler Wade, and whoever’s not starting between Clint Frazier/Miguel Andújar). Thairo Estrada is the other 40-man player in the fight with Herrera, while other NRIs like Kyle Holder and Zack Granite theoretically have a chance. Estrada seems redundant with Wade around, while Holder and Granite don’t offer the positional flexibility of Herrera.
One more thing in Herrera’s favor: a full 40-man roster is no longer a roadblock. Injuries, unfortunately, will clear the path for the Yankees to make some maneuvers on the roster. Guys like Luis Severino will be added to the 60-day injured list before Opening Day, thereby creating space. That makes it easier for the Yankees to give Herrera a job from square one.
If you really want to overthink things: take a look at the number on Herrera’s back. He’s wearing number 12 in camp, which is definitely not an assignment for scrubs. The Yankees could have slapped him with an offensive lineman’s number, but instead, gave Herrera a pretty prominent number. Who knows if that actually means anything. But similar to having good spring training stats, having a low number isn’t a bad thing either.
Clearly, there’s a path to making the big league roster. How Herrera would be used is another story, but I imagine that most big league teams are going to have a hard time sorting out how to best use its 26th man. Boone can figure that out later. For now, the road to the Bronx seems pretty open for Herrera.