Herrera was a star volleyball player in Venezuela with a 40-inch vertical leap. But he knew baseball was his future.
In 2011, Odubel was 5th in the South Atlantic League in hitting (.306) at age 19, hitting .339 over the final three months of the season.
In the spring of 2012, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Herrera as the 27th-best prospect in the Rangers organization. Heading into 2015 spring training with the Phillies, he was rated their 12th-best prospect.
Odubel gets the most out of his decent tools. He is one gritty gamer.
Herrera hit.372/.432/.556 in 207 at-bats for La Guaira to win both the batting title and MVP award in the Venezuelan League. The natural second baseman spent most of his time in center field, where the Phillies evaluated him during 2015 spring training.
RALLY SQUIRREL RETURNS
On a chilly night in October 2011, the Phillies and Cardinals squared off in a classic NLDS game. Roy Oswalt was on the hill for the visiting Phils and was handed a two-run lead before he ever had to take the mound. But in the later innings ... things took a turn.
A squirrel ran across home plate as Oswalt was set to deliver a pitch to Skip Schumaker. The umpire called it a ball, despite pleas from Oswalt and then-manager Charlie Manuel for a "no-pitch."
The Cardinals went on to win Game 4 ... and Game 5 ... and then the NLCS ... and eventually the World Series. This Rally Squirrel thing had legs.
Fast forward to the game of July 20, 2015. Yadier Molina and the Cardinals have the best record in baseball and are visiting the Phillies (who don't). But, it would seem that the Cards didn't want to take any chances because they brought the Rally Squirrel with them.
The Cards were already up 4-0 in the top of the second inning when the squirrel began to scale the net behind home plate.
Eventually, it fell onto the top of the home dugout before throwing itself into a host of players.
"When I saw it in my face, I just brushed it away," said Phillies outfielder Herrera, who was near where the squirrel jumped into the dugout.
Suddenly, it was 11-0. Just like that. Things eventually calmed down and the Cardinals never looked back, but Phillies fans will probably be seeing that squirrel in their nightmares for the next few days. (M Bertha - MLB.com - June 19, 2015)
Odubel's nickname, El Torito, meaning "the little bull" in Spanish, was given to the 5-foot-11 Venezuelan by his father while growing up, and has caught on.
Long before Phillies fans began to know Odubel as "El Torito," the energetic, perpetually smiling, always-clapping-after-a-walk, sometimes-flipping-his-bat-after-a-sac-fly Phillies center fielder, the organization used a couple scouting reports and a strong recommendation from one of their own to make him one of the best Rule 5 Draft picks in franchise history.
"We feel like we're taking a shot on a prospect," Phillies professional scouting director Mike Ondo said after selecting Herrera with the eighth pick in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft. The Phillies got much more than that. They got a 2016 All-Star and a key piece to their future.
"He's a special guy," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I call him a hit collector. I don't know how he does it sometimes. He looks so bad at one at-bat and then the next three gets hits." (Zolecki - MLB.com - 7/5/16)
Much of Herrera's 2016 success [through mid-July] 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 [at the 2016 All-Star Game]. 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 Phillies had room to improve during the 2016 season's second half, core pieces are already in place in Herrera, slugging third baseman Maikel Franco and several promising starter.
"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. (Finkelstein - MLB.com - 7/12/16)
January 2017: Herrera committed to play for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.
July 3, 2008: Rangers' scout Rafic Saab signed Herrera as a free agent, out of Venezuela, for $160,000.
December 11, 2014: The Phillies chose Herrera out of the Rangers organization in the Rule 5 Draft.
- December 16, 2016: Odubel signed a 5-year, $30.5 million with the Phillies.