Over this off-season, I’m ramping up my commitment to the non-MLB aspect of baseball, with an eye on what makes sense for the Cubs, and why. In the process, I’m stumbling into games with Cubs prospects from their college days. Among the early ones has been 2018 third-round selection Jimmy Herron.
At college for Duke, he was the every day leadoff man for the Blue Devils in 2018. As a junior, he scored 61 runs in 63 games, which you’ll take, regardless of the league. He was 17-for-24 in stealing bases in college. In the game against East Carolina I recently watched, he led off the first getting plunked in the shoulder. He went to third on an expertly executed hit-and-run, and scored on a rather shallow fly to left field. The play wasn’t close. As a junior, Herron walked 42 times, and fanned only 28 times. While he played left in college, he’s a legitimate center fielder so far.
An important premise I want to emphasize is the importance of having a reasonable expectation for draft selections. Herron was the 98th overall choice in the 2018 Draft. Looking at the list, a recent Cubs selection pops up in Zeke DeVoss. DeVoss had been (also) a college lead-off man. With DeVoss, the speed was the thing, and he had 14 career homers in 1,648 plate appearances. Herron has four in 139.
DeVoss played 24 games above the Advanced-A level in his career. Herron figures to start 2019 in Myrtle Beach, and might well be the starting center fielder for the Pelicans. It isn’t that DeVoss horribly under-represented the 98 spot. He was a bit flashy defensively, and patrolled center quite well for Daytona. However, the bat didn’t advance enough for the former Miami Hurricane. His OPS in his Midwest League season was .752. A level up, it was .747.
Herron figures to be good enough to play center through a bit of the minor league pipeline. That isn’t to say he’ll be MLB-good in center. That’s what the six levels of the minor leagues are for. Development comes when it does and if it does, which is why tracking routinely remains important.
Herron’s stint in South Bend was slightly less than I would have expected. In his draft season, at the full-season level, his OPS was only .665. While, I’d have expected a bit more, the first season is routinely overplayed, either way. If Herron is set to go for the Pelicans in April, it’s all good. His numbers may also be tamped a bit in a rather pitcher-friendly park in a rather pitcher-friendly league, either way. Initially, the Cubs will want him to play quality defense in center field.
Back to the 98th spot in the draft, you might recognize three names from the list. Edwin Diaz (2012), Joe Kelly (2009) and Scott Hairston (2001) were selected there. None have had MLB wins-above over 6.5. Back when, Jack Morris was signed as a 98. As such, what you’re likely hoping for from a player from Herron’s spot is a player that represents “to and possibly through” Double-A Ball. If he ends up as a trade piece for a July addition, that’s relatively useful. However, Herron has skills enough to potentially play in MLB.
He is well ahead of the Rule 5-eligibility curve. He played center in 21 of his 30 Midwest League starts, and here he is lining a single to left [VIDEO] for South Bend.
The Cubs have short-changed their pipeline offense through many of the recent seasons, by trying to over-compensate with pitchers in the draft. Herron won’t be a flashy addition to the offense, but he should be a useful outfielder with more pop than some of the recent outfield starters.
Grasping the realistic expectations of a draft pick is a long-term goal for these profiles. The standard of “MLB regular or bust” is a tough mindset to shake. And, some may be most comfortable with it. However, considering how many things can go wrong, and would have to go right, it’s quite inappropriate to expect every drafted player to have MLB success. As such, constructing reasonable expectations is a seemingly important aspect of evaluating pipelines.
So far, Herron has already begun the adjustment to full-season ball. Some third round choices don’t make it that far. Hopefully, you hang around for an off-season of prospect profiles, and draft prep articles. A team succeeds often through their initial signings. Getting them more known is what “until March” is about.