Hurricane season has arrived early in 2024, as Ivan Herrera has been punishing South Florida with a barrage of baseballs in the Caribbean Series. Herrera, who plays for Panama in the event held at LoanDepot Park in Miami, has been the star of the tournament, hitting .400 with two home runs in 27 plate appearances. Panama is currently 5-1, and Herrera appears to be the frontrunner for series MVP.
Herrera excelled in his time with the Cardinals in 2023, accumulating 11 knocks in 37 at-bats, good for a .297 average. He was equally proficient with Triple-A Memphis, hitting for the same .297 average there in 290 at-bats. With former backup catcher Andrew Knizner out of the picture in St. Louis, the 23-year-old Herrera appears ready to take the reins as Willson Contreras' primary caddy.
During the winter warmup in January, Contreras commented on Herrera's improved discipline regarding the game, saying Herrera used to appear a bit distracted but was a "totally different guy" after his promotion to St. Louis in 2023. His performance in the Caribbean Series backs up the notion that Herrera has a renewed focus on baseball and has potential to build upon his success.
Former Cardinals star catcher Yadier Molina, who is managing the Puerto Rican team in the Caribbean Series, is set to join the Cardinals as an assistant to President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak. Herrera should be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Molina's hiring given the legend's deep knowledge related to every aspect of catching.
Herrera's personal and on-field development along with Molina's impending presence could be a perfect concoction for the young catcher. If he comes out of the gate on fire to start the regular season, or even Spring Training, the Cardinals will have to decide which bat to take out of the lineup to allow Herrera to play more often.
Herrera appears to be on a meteoric ascent and could make a huge splash for the Cardinals in 2024 if he's given the opportunities. On the other hand, with Contreras under contract through 2027, flipping Herrera could net the Cardinals some valuable pieces given the young catcher's continual improvement and rising trade value. A strong hitter who can remain behind the plate is a rare commodity and one many teams would salivate over.
Whether the Cardinals keep Herrera to learn from Molina and play alongside Contreras or they trade him to receive necessary pieces for a playoff run, Herrera's Caribbean clobbering should make fans excited for what's to come.