Update (August 27th): Dilson Herrera was traded to the New York Mets by the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for OF Marlon Byrd and C John Buck. This feature story was written in early August when Herrera was still part of the Pirates organization.
Expectations swirl around all prospects within professional baseball. Based primarily around talent and long term potential, prospect status is often times the focal point in developing a major league team.
The higher the prospect is ranked, the more likely he will be a big leaguer.
West Virginia Power second baseman Dilson Herrera is already proving that he can be the future second baseman of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ranked as the 20th best prospect in the Pirates minor leagues according to Baseball America, Herrera is surpassing expectations within the Pirates system.
Did we mention he's only 19 years old?
Born in Cartagena, Colombia, Herrera's only passion since he was four was to play baseball. After five years of constant practice, Herrera began representing Colombia nationally at the age of nine.
"When I was 13, I had a tryout with the Pirates," Herrera said, using Power infielder Chris Diaz as a translator. "They liked me and when I was 14, 15, and 16, I was always practicing with the Pirates. Then I signed with the Pirates when I was 16."
Dilson made his professional debut with the Pirates' Venezuelan summer league then next year. Then only 17 years old, Herrera appeared in 65 games, batting .308 with two home runs and 27 RBI.
Next season, Herrera spent the majority of 2012 with the Gulf Coast League Pirates, but saw a late-season call up to the State College Spikes, the then Short-Season affiliate of the Pirates. Herrera batted .286 with eight home runs and 29 RBI in his sophomore year as a professional.
"My number one dream was to play in America," Herrera said. "My goal was to make it to the U.S. I played in the U.S. and after accomplishing that dream, I see how different the professionalism is here."
In the Gulf Coast League, Herrera found himself playing ball with players close to the same age as him. However, many of the college draft picks for the Pirates make their professional debuts with the short-season clubs, so Herrera became one of the younger players on the team.
Being one of the youngest players on the 2013 Power roster doesn't bother him, though. As of August 6th, Herrera is batting .270 with a career high ten home runs and 51 RBI over 90 games as the primary second baseman with West Virginia. For his efforts, Herrera was named as an all-star in the South Atlantic League.
While an all-star nomination is certainly something to brag about, Herrera one-upped that nomination with another honor. He was selected to play in the MLB Futures game at Citi Field in New York City.
"I was in the clubhouse when my agent called me," Herrera said when he found out he was selected to participate in the MLB Future's game in New York. "I never expected anything like that. It felt like cold water being thrown in my face - a surprising feeling."
Herrera made only one plate appearance in the future's game but soaked in the entire experience.
"I never thought I'd be able to play in a stadium like that being so young," Herrera said. "(Citi Field) was so huge and beautiful."
This season Herrera's saw plenty of improvement in his game, especially on the defensive side. Herrera committed eight errors in the first month of the season, but has combined for five since the beginning of May.
"Turning double plays has been the biggest improvement I've made defensively," Herrera explained. "I would get too anxious and just try to do it too fast instead of taking my time and making the play."
With only a few weeks left in the 2013 season, Herrera continues to improve his game in all aspects.
"Everybody goes through struggles during the season. I'm feeling with the sacrifice and hard work I'm putting in, that's just going to continue to improve and it's going to get better through the season."