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Mackanin says Phillies will keep Herrera in center field

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

The Philadelphia Phillies publicly seem to be in complete agreement on the fact that Odubel Herrera will be the team's Opening Day center fielder in 2017. 

After general manager Matt Klentak raved about Herrera's play in center field earlier this offseason, manager Pete Mackanin followed suit earlier this week when speaking the MLB Winter Meetings:

Herrera moved to center field in 2015, after playing second base in the minor leagues. He was impressive in his first season, posting an 11.7 dWAR, a 9.9 UZR, a 9.9 UZR/150 and a .930 RZR. In 2016, he again finished fifth out of qualified center fielders in UZR, but his UZR dipped to 3.9, his UZR/150 slipped to 3.3, his dWAR fell to 6.1 and his RZR fell to .918. 

Even with Herrera's decline in the field taken into account, it's important to remember that it was only his second year playing the position and that most advanced statistics suggest he was still an strong fielder. It's also encouraging that his defensive metrics improved in the second half of the 2016 season. 

MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reported earlier this week that there is a belief around the league that Herrera could be had in a trade. While a trade seems fairly unlikely when you consider that Herrera is under team control through 2020 which would force a high price-tag, the Phillies suggesting anything other than that they are confident in Herrera as a fielder and plan to play him in center wouldn't do anything to help his trade value. 

So the Phillies keeping Herrera in center field for the time being makes sense. If the Phillies do eventually attempt to try him at a corner outfield position, both Roman Quinn and Aaron Altherr are internal options to play in center field. 2016 No. 1 overall pick Mickey Moniak may ultimately be the team's long-term center fielder, but he was drafted directly out of high school this past summer, so he's likely years away from playing at the major league level.

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