Kelvin DeJesus Herrera Mercado
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 190 lb.
Pitcher Kelvin Herrera was signed by scouts Daurys Nin and Rafael Vasquez for the Kansas City Royals in 2006. He made his pro debut with the DSL Royals in 2007 and reached the majors with the club in 2011.
With his fastball regularly timed over 100 mph, he was part of a devastating Royals bullpen that was key to the team reaching the 2014 World Series. His particular specialty was as a 7th-inning set-up man, who would then hand the ball over to Wade Davis in the 8th and to closer Greg Holland in the 9th. The trio was so effective that in effect, the Royals' opponents had to be in the lead by the end of the 6th inning if they wanted to have any hope of ending up on the winning side. Herrera was 4-3 with a 1.41 ERA in 70 games that year, getting credit for 20 holds in 21 opportunities. In the postseason, he put up an ERA of 1.80 in 11 games and was credited with the win over the San Francisco Giants in Game 2.
On April 21, 2015, Herrera was suspended for five games for throwing a pitch behind the head of Brett Lawrie of the Oakland A's on April 19th; the Royals had been all over Lawrie since he had injured SS Alcides Escobar with a hard slide in the series' opener two days earlier. Home plate umpire Greg Gibson immediately ejected Herrera, and the Commissioner's office concurred that the pitch was both dangerous and intentional, in spite of Kelvin's protests to the contrary. He went 4-3, 2.71 in 72 games while striking out 64 batters in 69 2/3 innings during the regular season. He added 11 appearances in the postseason, during which he gave up only 1 run in 18 2/3 innings while striking out 22 batters. he was the winner in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Houston Astros and picked up a World Series ring when the Royals defeated the New York Mets in five games. His most remarkable statistic that year was the velocity of his pitches, as he threw more pitches above 100 mph than anyone but the other-worldly Aroldis Chapman, with 64 such pitches during the season.
In 2016, as the Royals settled back into the back, he saw time as the team's closer when Wade Davis was unavailable and recorded 12 saves while going 2-6, 2.75 in 72 games. He posted another outstanding K/W ratio, at 86/12 and was named to the All-Star team for the second time. He was the main closer in 2017, saving 27 games, but his other numbers went down, with a record of 3-3, 4.25 in 64 games. He bounced back in the first months of the 2018 season, however, as he put up a sparkling ERA of 1.05 in his first 27 games, while recording 14 saves. He struck out 22 batters in 25 2/3 innings while walking only 2. With the Royals having started a reconstruction, it was clear that he would not remain on the team in the long term, but he did not even make it to the trading deadline: on June 18th, he was traded to the Washington Nationals in return for three minor league players. On paper it was a perfect match, as the talented Nationals were hampered by an inconsistent bullpen and clearly needed help from someone with Kelvin's track record. However, his performance was disappointing , as we went just 1-2, 4.34 in 21 games with 3 saves, failing to step in when closer Sean Doolittle was injured. He spent two weeks on the disabled list in mid-August, then on his return on August 26th, he was injured while pitching the final inning of 15-0 blow-out win over the New York Mets as he was just trying to get some work in. He tore a ligament in his left foot while covering first base, likely ending his season.