Braves 2021 Player Review: Guillermo Heredia

Amidst a seemingly endless stream of players making appearances in the outfield for the Braves this year, one easy-to-overlook yet incredibly important figure was Guillermo Heredia. While he wasn’t the MVP of the NLDS, NLCS, or World Series, he was a driving force in helping rebuild the team’s culture after some critical personnel losses. “Team player” is the first phrase that comes to mind when describing Heredia’s performance this season. Regardless of what he was asked to do, he did it with a smile on his face and a constant stream of encouraging banter towards his teammates. 

After the initial starting three outfielders were demoted, arrested, and injured, Heredia made 84 starts, almost entirely in center field. Then, the Braves picked up four new outfielders—Pederson, Rosario, Soler, and Duvall—and Heredia’s starting job disappeared almost overnight. Rather than sulk quietly on the bench while his opportunities to start in the outfield vanished, Heredia dove headlong into his motivational, supportive, “crazy sword guy” role. Perhaps no single image captures his enthusiasm and full-on embrace of the support role better than this picture from July 4, one of the season’s most memorable games. Guillermo was so overjoyed at Max Fried’s walk-off pinch-hit single that he actually made it from the dugout into fair territory, swords a-swingin’, before Fried had even reached first base!


Additionally, Heredia contributed far more than just being a sword-wielding, lovable guy; he served a valuable role plugging the gap in center field. According to https://baseballsavant.mlb.com, he was in the 89th percentile across the league in Outs Above Average (OAA). For reference, a player in the 50th percentile in OAA would be considered a perfectly average fielder; higher than that, and the player is better than average. To be almost in the 90th percentile puts Heredia in great company as an exceptional outfielder. Additionally, Guillermo’s 74th-percentile Outfielder Jump metric demonstrated a well-above-average ability to correctly locate and make plays on batted balls, an invaluable skill for any outfielder but especially important for a center fielder. This metric tracks the number of seconds it takes for the outfielder to take his first step on a correct course towards the point at which he can make a play on the ball. An inexperienced outfielder might misjudge a fly ball and start by running backwards when the play is actually in front of him, for example. In this regard, Heredia performed better than almost three-fourths of outfielders around the league. 

However, things were a bit of a different story on offense. During his 120 regular-season appearances, he maintained a batting average of .220, an on-base percentage of .311, and a .354 slugging percentage. Those are certainly sub-optimal numbers, but for someone so skilled defensively, it’s at least an adequate slash line. That .311 on-base percentage ranks him at #40 among the 80 players to appear in center field throughout the entire MLB this season, so, on offense, Heredia is the definition of an average center fielder. Of all the positions for which you can afford to sacrifice offense for defense, center field is certainly a big one.

By all accounts, Heredia was a constant source of encouragement and humor during games. In regards to his non-stop chatter, beloved third-base coach Ron Washington said “[i]t’s forever. It’s not just for an inning. If we’re out here 10 or 11 innings, he’s out here going crazy for 10 or 11 innings.” Washington then continued: “[h]onestly, [Heredia] was one of the guys who kept us afloat. He was one of the guys who kept us around. He deserves a ton of credit.” That is exceptionally high praise from Washington, a man who is himself one of the core leaders of the team and an undeniable contributor to the optimistic, joyful team culture. 

How does Heredia himself feel about his role on the bench? “Just because I’m not playing, I’m not physically out there on the field, I find this is way [sic] to just kind of just show the team support within my role,” he said, in regards to his sword-wielding antics. Those are the words of a humble, mature leader who understands that winning is more important than his own playing time or ego. Even though he had relatively little playing time in the postseason, only starting one game and appearing in 9 others, he was the first one out of the dugout celebrating every big play and doing the sword chop when Braves batters got on base. 

On November 30, Guillermo was re-signed by the Braves to a one-year, $1 million contract, and I personally believe he is worth every single penny of that. Some might overlook Heredia as just another backup outfielder, but he truly represents the heart and soul of this 2021 Braves team. Always enthusiastic, he stepped up and played well when needed, and knew how to make the most of his bench role following the outfield reconstruction. Attacking every game with unrelenting cheerfulness, you could not ask for a better man to ride the bench and celebrate the big wins, or keep up the team’s spirits during the losses. Fortunately, Heredia got to celebrate the biggest win of them all this year! 

Author: Michael Kasper

Sportswriter, stats fanatic, and social media manager here at the Braves Journal. https://twitter.com/KasperStats

45 thoughts on “Braves 2021 Player Review: Guillermo Heredia”

  1. Paying Heredia $1MM and paying Sandoval $1MM (as we did last year) is the difference between determination and desperation.

  2. Thanks for the write up on Heredia. He’s cheap and brings a lot of energy, but I’m neutral on him being on the roster going forward. If Pache or Waters were ready he wouldn’t be as necessary, but as it stands, resigning him is probably a good move.

    From last thread on Dansby, don’t you guys think his defensive decline may have had a little to do with Atlanta’s change to relying more on the shift in June? It seemed to take him a while to adjust, especially in turning double plays and his route to 2nd. I think we’ll see improvement next year.

  3. I’m not sure what to make of Dansby’s defensive decline. I don’t think he has a great range for a shortstop and, based on eye test alone, his arm didn’t seem as accurate this past season. He also seemed to boot more balls. Sometimes players just have bad seasons defensively, just like they do offensively. I would hold off before saying that Dansby is going into a defensive decline. However, I would also hold off on giving him a big extension for the same reason. I do like Dansby and he has been a breath of fresh air after that parade of awful shortstop that came before him.

  4. Dansby was not good defensively in the World Series. That’s about as far as I’m willing to go with that. If he was any worse defensively this year, it wasn’t by enough to extrapolate anything from IMO. And I’m skeptical that he actually was worse.

  5. I’m anxious to hear about Duvall. I hope he gets a 2 year deal too. I’m expect something like 2/18M.

  6. I think the Heredia signing may be a signal that they will sign Duvall to be the primary center fielder, with Heredia as a defensive caddy for the position any time we lead in late innings.

  7. Heredia as coach/defensive replacement makes sense to me.

    I think the best case for Arcia is he successfully takes over Adrianza’s role.

    Feeling more and more pessimistic about the chances of Rosario/Soler returning.

    SUPER concerned Freddie hasn’t signed yet.

  8. I will miss Camargo. I thought he would be our Marwin Gonzalez. I was at a game where he hit a walk off homer into the short porch in right. Always loved his personality and flair. Oh well.

  9. @15 If Newk gets his head right he can be a great reliever. Ditto Webb. Maybe Coach O’Day will have a better effect than Coach Tomlin.

  10. Given the pickup of Jackson, its not surprising that Rich Rod is gone, but I wouldn’t have minded seeing him again next year. I guess we still could, same with Carmago. But I doubt it.

  11. @12: You think so? Baseballs are physical objects and have natural variations anyway. As long as the ball boys and umpires and teams are ignorant about the source of a particular batch (and frankly, even if they knew, probably) I’m not sure I see the problem. Nothing in the article was particularly illuminating regarding any actual problem…

  12. @19
    I think I linked the wrong article; look at this one instead.

    https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10019597-mlb-confirms-it-used-2-sets-of-baseballs-with-differing-weights-during-2021-season

    The relevant parts are the quotes from players near the end, where they propose a bunch of reasons MLB might have to manipulate levels of offense in particular games, and specifically the thought that MLB might manipulate the ball with free agency in mind (e.g., aim to deaden the statistics of imminent free agents).
    MLB (apparently) secretly picking players to do well or badly strikes me as a recipe for a difficult labor negotiation. Note, of course, it doesn’t need to be true; the fact that the players are talking about it is enough. (also it might very well be true)

  13. Really surprised about De La Cruz……he’s been a top prospect for years. I guess they know something we don’t know.

  14. Tromp’s continued presence on the roster further contributes to the idea of a Contreras trade.

    Maybe Rangel is taking de la Cruz’s place on the roster.

  15. Rich Rod threw too many fast balls down the middle of plate ..that was his problem … im gonna say this..

    Dodgers are coming after Freeman …if Braves don’t pay the man .. then I’m done with them …he is the face of this team .. pay the man ASAP

  16. I am perfectly fine if Freddie leaves. I feel like if he really wanted to stay he would sign the 5 year deal. I don’t want AA to put the team in a position where they can’t extend their young stars over the next few years. AA is getting too much blame in these negotiations…..it goes both ways. I trust him either way.

    fwiw, the Braves did check with the A’s on the cost of Matt Olson.

    @22 I think it’s likely Contreras is trade bait in a package for either a SP or 1B

  17. I guess this means Duvall is definitely coming back. Our opening day OF might be Duvall, Heredia, Ozuna unless Pache or Waters make it through Spring.

  18. I’d guess the same thing. No news means Duvall will be back. It would be nice to also keep one of Rosario / Soler, assuming the DH comes to the NL. I actually hope it doesn’t, but I fear its time has come. Unless they tie it to the starting pitcher, then I would support the change.

  19. I am interested to see what this does to Freddie’s legacy if he ends up with the Dodgers. Will people turn on him or will they continue to love him for what he did here? If he went to the Angels I think people would be more forgiving with him wanting to be closer to home then if he goes to the Dodgers because it is the Dodgers.

  20. Bravey, the Dodgers have Justin Turner, Max Muncy, and Cody Bellinger. I don’t think they want another player that defaults to 1B/DH as they age.

  21. A+ article.

    AA sees more, knows more than I. He will build another highly competitive team.

    Go Braves. Long live Braves Journal.

  22. @28 Freddie would have to take A LOT more from LA not to come off a certain way. Let’s say he gets an extra $30M over the same term Atlanta offers, but he gives $20M back in Cali taxes. Is that really worth it considering he’s beloved in Atlanta and he’ll have seemingly no legacy in Atlanta?

  23. If Freddie left for the Dodgers or elsewhere, I assume it would be because he got an overwhelming offer. In that case I would blame the Braves for letting it get to this point.

  24. @32

    It’s going to have to be pretty overwhelming, like how Lincoln Riley’s contract had to be:

  25. @31 I agree. I think he does care about his legacy and as long as AA is in the ballpark it will be tough for him to leave. Now the big question becomes whether or not AA can get into the ballpark…

  26. One thing about the baseballs is that Rob Manfred has lied (or, at minimum, issued obviously unbelievable untruths) about the baseball and its effects before. MLB owns the manufacturer and already has zero credibility on the subject.

    The physics of baseballs are hard enough that it would likely be difficult to introduce intentional changes to the ball without invoking a law of unintended consequences. You might alter the seams slightly to try to cut down on home runs, and it might lead to an outcome you didn’t want.

    They may have been running multiple balls as a test, to try to learn more about how to use the manufacturing process going forward.

    However, if MLB did inform the union, then I don’t see this particular issue making much difference. It’s not the league’s fault if union leadership isn’t communicating with its membership. It’s more an indication, as if any more were needed, that the players do not trust the league.

  27. The Braves “confirmed” that Duvall was tendered:

  28. Didn’t Dansby have some insane errorless streak the second half of the season? I’m not a big Dansby homer. I think he’s overrated on offense. But defensively he’s top five. I don’t buy into defensive metrics as much.

    When he is on, he’s a top 5-6 shortstop in the league. He’s a good role player on a club like this.

    I’d release him today and give Freeman his money though.

  29. @31: Yeah, I think it would need to be at least 10% higher than an Atlanta contract, maybe 20% to account for increased cost of living, and maybe 30% for the hassle. As of now, Freddie and his family have a beautiful home in Sandy Springs that’s probably without a mortgage and don’t have to worry about media sitting in their driveway. I’m also pretty sure Chelsea has veto power like Miss Terry has with Nick Saban. It’s definitely going to be interesting to see if the team is willing to say, “Well, we can only spend money on the team that we’ve made from the team, but we’re willing to let one of our biggest moneymakers walk because we don’t have the money.”

    Side note: I didn’t realize until about 10 years ago that players also pay taxes in every state where they play a game, which explains why some of them end up in tax trouble if they don’t get a good accountant (see: Darrell Evans).

  30. @38, I didn’t know that either!

    Cindy, I don’t know how much of what you’re saying is just bravado in case of the worst, but I can’t imagine feeling “perfectly fine” if Freddie leaves. We want him and he wants us, and if a lousy $10 or even $20 million bucks is all that separates us, I won’t be copacetic, I’ll be mad as hell. If the gap is a lot wider than that, I’ll just feel sad for a long time. But there’s no world in which I’ll feel okay about it.

  31. @39 – Ditto! If Freeman walks, he walks. And likely for an insane amount of money. I definitely will not be “fine” with it.

    I also find it interesting (in the “Hmm..what’s going on here” kind of way) that of the four free agents on the players rep side of the labor talks, 3 of them have already signed (Scherzer, Semien and Paxton) leaving only Andrew Miller out there. Once the inevitable lock out happens at midnight, everything is frozen. At least they got theirs.

  32. The Braves are not big FA spenders. They’re never going to spend for a Scherzer, Seager, Correa, Machado, Cole, etc. Freeman is going to go down in the books with names like Aaron, Jones, Murphy, Niekro, Matthews, Spahn, Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz. Freeman is universally respected across the sport. He’s among the elite in the sport. He’s admired across the fanbase. That’s the kind of guy you want to wear one uniform. That’s the kind of guy who deserves going above and beyond your usual budget constraints.

    If he wants 6/$220, that’s one thing. But if the Braves are at 6/$150 and Freeman’s at 6/$180, there’s no excuse.

  33. @40, Scherzer and Semien actually helped their fellow unionmembers’ cases considerably. The owners have very little ability to cry poverty when the Texas Rangers handed out a literal half a billion dollars and the New York Mets handed out a couple hundred million themselves. Turns out that when it’s two minutes to midnight, the poor little rich guys actually had plenty of money. So the players learned that the owners agree they’re worth the money, and that will undoubtedly stiffen their backs to hold out for what they’re worth.

  34. @39 It’s not bravado. I’ve seen too many older players collapse when they enter their thirties, especially the big 1B types. These giant contracts rarely work out well for the team. Freddie will be 32 next year. I still can’t forget him striking out 7 straight times in the World Series. Riley, Soler and Rosario were the hitting stars of the playoffs. Freddie had one big timely HR against the Brewers. I think his best days are behind him. He might have 3 good years left and I don’t want the team hamstrung with a lousy contract for 6 guaranteed years. People are letting their love of him get in the way of business. At this point I hope he goes somewhere else, I’m tired of him holding the Braves hostage. This has really changed my opinion of him.
    The team still needs another top outfielder and DH as well as a starting pitcher. AA needs to just move on.

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