photo: Ivan Herrera (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown reaches the top five with a new contender for the title of the St. Louis Cardinals’ “Catcher of the Future”. FREE article.
Update: Due to the Cardinals’ acquisition of pitcher Matthew Liberatore on January 9, the left-hander was been installed as the new no. 3 prospect for 2020. In the process, Herrera moves down one spot in the rankings to no. 6.
|2019 rank||Pos.||DOB||Ht.||Wt.||Bat||Thw||Signed||Round||R5/Opt||MLB debut|
|23||C||6 01 00||6-0||180||R||R||2016||IFA||2020||2021|
Link to Ivan Herrera’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.
Selected 2019 stats
TCN Scouting Grade: 6, Risk: medium (click here to review scales)
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (6): There was a general consensus among the Message Board voters that Herrera will only get better and his defense will improve with time. He has already succeeded with the bat at High-A.
ChristopherJeske and UncleDenny feel so strongly about Ivan that they included him in their top three. Jeske reasoned, “Quietly on the same trajectory as Carlson and Gorman. Exceptional bat (.805).”
Herrera also drew praise from CardFanInChiTown. “19 year old already catching in A+.”
stlcard25 noted, “If (Elehuris) Montero isn’t the best pure hitter in the system, this guy may be. I’ve read at least twice that his glove is, at a minimum, passable and improving. On top of that he has hit well. His defense might be a question mark now but if he can stick at catcher, watch out. He will get some more attention next year nationally.”
Ivan has improved his approach at the plate significantly and had it not been for his still slightly raw play behind the dish, (something that Herrera vows to improve on), he could have wound up a few ticks higher in the consensus voting. He is one more prospect that should already be on the “untouchable” list. – John Baker
Derek Shore (4): After spending his first two seasons at complex leagues (aside from 18 at-bats in the Texas League in 2018), Herrera reached Low-A Peoria at age 18 in 2019 and quickly established himself as one of the system’s top hitters.
The Panama native showed power and patience as he adjusted to the Midwest League, and he earned a promotion to High-A Palm Beach to finish the regular season. His coming out party was capped by a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League.
Across the two levels, Herrera hit .284/.374/.405 with nine home runs and 47 RBIs. He also threw out 31 percent of would-be basestealers (32 of 104).
“I’m very impressed with Herrera for his age,” Glendale Desert Dogs manager Luis Bolivar said. “Behind the plate, it’s awesome to see a guy his age catching older guys in the higher levels. His framing and game-calling were great. He has a strong, accurate arm with quick feet and a quick release.
“Offensively, he can spray the ball to all parts of the field. He has good strike zone discipline and is very calm at the plate. I like that he goes up there with a plan. He has the ability to hit for power, but more of that will come later on.”
From a scouting standpoint, Herrera is described by scouts as an offensive catcher who makes frequent contact with a compact, right-handed swing. He is short to the ball, rarely swings and misses in the zone and lines the ball to all parts of the field.
He is a patient hitter who takes his walks, though he will chase at times and swing through upper-end velocity like most young hitters.
Herrera continues to get stronger physically and has a chance to hit for 12-15 home runs as he fills out.
He has the strong, athletic frame to catch and is willing to learn, but his blocking and receiving are inconsistent. Most scouts expect him to stick behind the plate down the road.
Herrera is just 19 and has plenty of time to polish up his game. He has the ceiling of a well-rounded future regular or slightly better, according to one scout.
Expect to see Herrera open 2020 at Double-A Springfield.
Brian Walton (6): Earlier, I wrote about Angel Rondon having made the biggest strides among top prospect starting pitchers in 2019. Herrera is his offensive counterpart, in my assessment.
One year ago, Ivan (ee-VAHN) Herrera ranked no. 23 overall. In the 2019 Top 50, he had surged past the two catching prospects ahead of him in terms of team assignments, Julio Rodriguez and Dennis Ortega. However, Herrera was still nowhere near no. 6 prospect Andrew Knizner in any of our three separate votes, which come together for the consolidated ranking.
After Herrera’s successful 2019 and Knizner became blocked in his attempt to become a regular big-leaguer, that gap between the two catchers in the rankings is now basically non-existent. In fact, Derek has already moved Herrera ahead of Knizner in his personal rankings.
I cannot argue with that. The points made in his write-up above are right-on, in my view. Knizner has been successful longer, but has more or less plateaued. Because he is more than five years older, Knizner’s clock is ticking more loudly.
In 2019, Herrera’s batting average, OBP and OPS topped all Peoria Chiefs players, with his slugging behind only Nolan Gorman. This came in a season in which he had jumped all the way from the Gulf Coast League in 2018. After 18 games in the Florida State League with Palm Beach to conclude the regular season, Herrera’s reward was an assignment to the Arizona Fall League.
As has been the case at most of his career stops, Herrera was the youngest player on the AFL’s Glendale Desert Dogs and the only one born in the new millennium. Remember that he had not yet reached Double-A, making him one of the least experienced players in the prospect showcase, as well. There, the catcher not only caught much older pitchers, he faced an increased level of mound competition at the plate.
Herrera was more than up to the challenge, performing credibly both offensively and defensively, and was recognized by his selection to the League’s Fall Stars Game.
A smart and motivated individual, Herrera told me he has gone beyond the English classes provided by the Cardinals, working very hard on building his language skills with teammates. Recognizing the leadership value in being bi-lingual, he can already conduct interviews clearly in English.
Herrera’s first MLB spring training camp invitation is almost certainly just around the corner, giving him important opportunity to work with Yadier Molina directly and to establish a first-hand impression with St. Louis’ coaches.
Likely becoming the every-day catcher at Springfield at age 19-20 will be a strong progression for a player who is bound to make some national top 100 prospect rankings in the spring of 2020. Herrera will become Rule 5 eligible next winter, and at this point, he is about as close to being a lock to be added to the 40-man roster by November 2020 as any player in the system.
“I like him,” a scout said about Herrera. “He can hit – but he is going to need a couple more years before being ready (for the majors).”
Herrera’s upcoming season could answer two very important questions for the Cardinals. The first is if he can one day replace Molina as St. Louis’ regular catcher. The second is if the organization can afford to move Knizner, who would be a valuable trade chip, to help them improve the roster in another area.
This year, I have upgraded both components of Herrera’s scouting grade. Last year, he was a “5 high” – an average starter in the future whose ranking was still more based on projection than results. However, for 2020, I have recognized his considerable progress by improving his grade from “high” to “medium” and bumping his ceiling to a potential above-average MLB starter, a “6 medium” grade.
Our 2020 top 50 series continues
To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and 11 in-depth, follow-up articles coming up at the rate of one article per day into January.
Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. If you are not a member, join today so you do not miss out!
Also, please participate in the daily discussion about each prospect at The Cardinal Nation’s free message board.
Link to related article for TCN members
Herrera spoke from the Arizona Fall League.
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