T.J. Rivera Unfairly Labeled a AAAA Player
At what point does T.J. Rivera finally get his shot?
In his minor league career, Rivera has hit everywhere he’s gone. In his minor league career, he’s hit .320/.367/.423. For the past three years, he’s played Winter Ball hitting .307/.361/.445. Bottom line is Rivera has hit everywhere he has played in his entire minor league career. He had gotten better each and every year. For example, he’s hitting .330/.360/.524 in Triple-A right now.
Even with Rivera hitting so well and improving, it seems like the undrafted 27 year old may never get his shot.
He didn’t last year. The Mets were more comfortable with a struggling Dilson Herrera. They were more comfortable with Danny Muno. They didn’t protect him in the Rule 5 draft despite his offensive production. The Mets were able to keep him because no one thought he was worthy of a Rule 5 pick. Seeing what the Braves put on the field, it makes you question what are we missing with Rivera?
There is a tendency to scout a player’s minor league statistics. The belief is that if a player can hit in the minors, they can hit in the majors. The inverse of that is deemed to be true as well. However, there are many more factors at play like level of competition, approach at the plate, level of experience and age compared to the competition, etc. When taking a totality of the circumstances, a player who hits well in the minors but isn’t deemed good enough to hit in the majors is tagged as a AAAA player.
Is that the case with Rivera? Is he really just a AAAA player? That would be the most logical explanation as to why he still hasn’t gotten his shot.
To answer that, we need to look at what he is. Rivera is a utility player that can play second, third and short. In reality, given his range and arm strength, he’s best suited to second base. Overall, no matter where you play him, he’s not that great defensively. Despite his relative versatility, it’s Rivera’s bat that would carry him to the majors.
As discussed above, Rivera has hit everywhere. There’s good reason for that. He’s a disciplined hitter. He has a good compact swing, and he’s a gap to gap line drive hitter. He doesn’t generate much power, but he’s capable of the occasional double. In short, Rivera shows the skills to be able to get on base no matter what the level.
What we don’t know if that ability will ever translate. At the major league level, the Mets have Wilmer Flores and Eric Campbell. Campbell, in particular, is what Rivera aspires to be. Campbell can play a multitude of positions. He doesn’t generate much power, but he has shown the ability to get on base. So long as Campbell gets on base, the Mets aren’t sending him down.
In the event Campbell ever gets sent down, it’s highly unlikely Rivera ever gets the call. He’s buried at the upper levels of the Mets minor league system behind guys like Herrera, Matt Reynolds, and Gavin Cecchini. Worse yet, Rivera isn’t on the 40 man roster thereby further decreasing his chances of ever getting a shot.
Unfortunately, it appears Rivera may never get his shot with the Mets. He may never get an opportunity to show he has the tools to hit and get on base in the major leagues. It’s a testament to a deep Mets farm system. It’s an indictment of the rest of baseball, who apply AAAA tags to players without ever giving them a chance that they’ve earned.
T.J. Rivera has earned a shot to play in the major leagues. Hopefully, he will get that shot someday.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on metsminors.net