McCormick Field is one of the smaller ballparks in the South Atlantic League, and the offensive output posted on the historic diamond that once hosted the likes of Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson can oftentimes be a bit misleading.
Yet that fact should not diminish the progress shown by Asheville shortstop Rosell Herrera thus far in 2013. After struggling to hit his weight during his initial taste of the SAL last season, Herrera has re-emerged as a top prospect during his encore on the Class A circuit. Upon entering Wednesday's games, the native of the Dominican Republic led the loop with 114 hits and 180 total bases, ranked second with a .361 batting average, .441 on-base percentage and 66 runs, and placed fifth with a .570 slugging percentage, 38 extra-base hits and 45 walks.
Herrera's performance, which earned him a spot on the Southern Division All-Star team, is a far cry from his full-season debut with the Tourists in 2012. One of the league's younger players at age 19, the switch-hitting Herrera batted only .202 in 63 games while seeing time at shortstop and third base. He wound up being demoted to Tri-City in the Northwest League, where he rebounded somewhat by hitting at a .284 clip in 47 outings.
Asheville manager Fred Ocasio was the Tri-City skipper last season and says he has seen Herrera grow and mature over the past year.
"Last year was the one of the first times he had ever struggled in baseball, and there were moments when he probably didn't handle it very well," Ocasio said. "But he's a young guy who has grown up and matured a lot. He got down on himself last season and some people might have questioned him. The big thing is he learned from his mistakes and has become a better player."
Herrera signed with the Rockies for a reported $800,000 in 2009 and reached the United States after playing the 2010 season as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League. He showed impressive hand-eye coordination at the plate at Casper in 2011 while hitting .284 with six home runs and 34 RBIs in 63 Pioneer League contests. That led to his jump to Asheville in 2012, when the infielder appeared to be overmatched and was unable to produce from either side of the plate.
According to Asheville hitting coach Mike Devereaux, Herrera has quieted some of the moving parts of his swing, which has helped shorten his path to the ball. He has also done a good job of using the entire field more often from both sides of the plate. A natural left-handed hitter who appeared to be more comfortable as a southpaw swinger in the past, Herrera has balanced numbers in 2013. He is hitting .348/.425/.420 from the right side compared to .364/.444/.611 from the left.
Granted, his home and away splits are tilted toward McCormick Field. In 40 home games, Herrera is hitting .416/.486/.725 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs versus a slash line of .311/.398/.431 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 43 road outings. Despite the disparity, the fact that Herrera is making consistent contact, working counts and playing solid defense at shortstop has the Rockies enthusiastic about what the future might hold.
"The way a young player reacts to adversity many times defines what kind of player they can become down the road," Ocasio said. "He has turned every aspect of his game around and is making good progress. It's been impressive to watch."
Ynoa first to 10: Savannah's Gabriel Ynoa rebounded from giving up four earned runs versus Hickory on July 2 by tossing 6 2/3 shutout innings in an 8-1 victory over Augusta on July 9. Ynoa leads the SAL with 10 wins and 94 innings pitched and ranks second with a 0.97 WHIP and eighth with a 2.68 ERA. In his last nine starts, dating to mid May, the right-hander from the Dominican Republic has surrendered only 12 earned runs in 62 2/3 innings, good for a 1.72 ERA.
Stumpf stumping the competition: After tossing a seven-inning no-hitter versus Greenville on July 2, Lexington's Daniel Stumpf did not give up a hit to Greensboro until the fourth frame in his next start on July 9. Since the All-Star break, the Legends' left-hander is 2-2 with a 2.05 ERA, allowing only five earned runs in his last 22 innings. Stumpf leads the SAL with two complete games.
Rain, rain go away: Constant rain throughout the Southeast has wreaked havoc with the SAL schedule. Augusta had five straight contests that were either delayed or postponed in the past week, which will lead to six games in four days against Charleston on Aug. 1-4. "I've never seen anything like this in all my years," manager Mike Goff told the Augusta Chronicle. "I've been in just about every league there is, and I've never seen it rain every single day like this. It's just one of those things. You can't control Mother Nature and you have to deal with it."