When the Yankees announced which non-roster players received an invite to Spring Training, the attention immediately gravitated toward the big names.
The list of 19 invitees included veterans with years of experience alongside top prospects eager to take a major step toward their big-league debuts.
One name you might've looked past initially is Rosell Herrera, a 27-year-old switch hitter from the Dominican Republic that can play pretty much any position on defense. Herrera is entering his third season in the Majors in 2020 after playing 63 games with the Miami Marlins in 2019.
Two weeks after position players reported to Yankees' camp, Herrera has made a lasting impression on the Bombers' coaching staff – so much so that skipper Aaron Boone even gave the utilityman a shoutout during an in-game interview with YES Network.
When asked about which player is a "surprise at camp," Boone broadly referenced the Yankees' core of young pitchers, but only mentioning the name of one position player.
"I'd take a guy in this game. Rosell Herrera at third base for us who can kind of play everywhere for us on the field," Boone explained (at the 7:52 mark of the video embedded below). "He's been really solid here in his first game action these first handful of games swinging the bat ... He's been a guy that's done a really nice job here early in camp."
Herrera has been swinging one of the hottest bats in all of baseball this spring. In six games played so far, Herrera has posted a .500 batting average (7-for-14), driven in four runs, scored three and his seven base hits are tied for third-best in all of baseball as of Monday.
After Sunday's 10-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers – a game in which Herrera went 3-for-3 with a two-run double – Herrera explained how humbled he's been by the opportunity to put on pinstripes.
“I came here to do my best and try to help the team, every position they want to see me,” Herrera told reporters. “I'm very excited to be here. I know the Yankees are the best organization. I feel grateful to be here and I'm trying to do my best.”
Herrera is a shortstop by trade. After working his way up through the Rockies system at that position, after signing with Colorado in 2009, he recalled playing center field for the first time about four years later. His defensive versatility took off from there.
He made his debut in the Majors in 2018 with the Cincinnati Reds before spending the remainder of his rookie season with the Kansas City Royals. In 2019, Herrera may have only hit .200 – across 63 games with the Miami Marlins – but he appeared at six different positions. He had solidified his reputation as a manager's dream, helping give star players off time while providing reliable defensive no matter where on the field he's playing.
With the Bombers this spring, Herrera has appeared at third base, in the outfield and even a few innings at second base – at each position, he's yet to make a single error.
In fact, Herrera has led the Yankees in innings played on defense this spring (30), a sign that New York is eager to test out the utilityman's flexibility early on. As Boone described, the club has no reason to be anything but pleased with what they've seen so far.
“You always love any kind of versatility that people can provide. I think the thing in Rosell’s case is just the ability to switch [hit] ... but just the multi-positions that he brings,” Boone said to reporters. “You just want to make a good impression to start and he [has] certainly done that.”
After DJ LeMahieu's defensive versatility paid huge dividends for this club in 2019, and similar injury trends have appeared early this spring, Herrera is suddenly a viable option in making the Opening Day roster. He'd have to overcome a major obstacle in that he's currently not on the 40-man roster, but if he continues to open eyes with his bat and gloves, his name will almost certainly be in the conversation of sorting out the club's final few roster spots.
Beyond Herrera, LeMahieu and Tyler Wade – in addition to Miguel Andújar, who made his debut in the outfield days ago – are New York's most flexible, multi-position defenders. From a standpoint of offensive track record, the scales are tipped away from Herrera, but his performance thus far has shown he's capable (and being a switch hitter helps his case even more).
With a touch over three weeks left until Opening Day, Herrera is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to help the team – no matter what position he's playing.
“I’m just going to try and help the team at every position they want to see me,” Herrera said. “Nothing different. Keep playing hard and do my thing.”
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