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Lesser Brewers: Elian Herrera

Even the best teams need back up players.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

The Brewers claimed Elian Herrera off waivers in the early offseason before 2014. At the time it was a pretty low key under the radar move (much in the same way the Luis Jimenez and Juan Centeno moves are viewed right now). And to be fair, Herrera didn't have much impact on the Brewers season.

Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus rate his contribution at 0.2 WAR. Baseball Reference actually thinks he had negative value (-0.3 WAR). Basically, he was about replacement level. But there is something about him that I think offers some hidden value. That's his positional flexibility.

With the Brewers in 2014 he started games at each of the following positions: Second base, shortstop, third base, left field, center field, and right field. The only positions he provided negative defensive value at was shortstop and right field. His best position was third base and the rest he was average at.

Depending on team construction a utility player's positional flexibility either matters very little or it matters a ton. The Brewers had two platoons each of which had one player that only played that position. So in the case of the 2014 Brewers, Elian Herrera's positional flexibility was immensely useful and that I don't think is entirely reflected in his WAR. It doesn't suddenly turn him into a 2 or even 1 WAR contributor, but I think it's meaningful nonetheless.

His offense was pretty mediocre to bad. He slashed 274/288/341 good for a 69 wRC+. His batting average was solid but he didn't (and never will) hit for power. That would be okay though if he had drawn walks at a better rate than 2.1%. As laughably bad as that is, it's something that could be looked at as encouraging for the future. He's had much better walk rates in the minors (double digits even) and the league average walk rate in the NL (2014) was 7.6% so his low walk rate is something that should surely regress toward the mean. But now we're getting into a whole other conversation.

Best Game

Okay, so I could tell you about the game he went 5-for-5 be we all just want to watch that throw from right field again.

Contract Status

Elian Herrera is still a pre-arb player. If the Brewers bring him back next season he'll basically make league minimum. I say basically because sometimes these guys get raises of something like $10,000 which really isn't much when we're talking about hundred million dollar payrolls. The Brewers can maintain team control over him through the 2019 season.