27-year-old rookie T.J. Rivera was one of the bright spots for the New York Mets down the stretch. Promoted to the major leagues for the first time on August 10th, he shuttled back and forth between Las Vegas and New York for the next few weeks but hit very well in his major league time: 33 games, 105 at-bats, .333/.345/.476. He hit terrifically at Las Vegas (.353/.393/.516) and, so far at least, maintained his production in the majors.
Rivera didn't show up on many prospect lists pre-season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent from Troy University back in 2011. Not a toolsy sort, he continuously outperformed players with better physicality at every level, including a .358/.394/.438 run through the Eastern League in 2014 and a .325/.364/.449 line in Double-A and Triple-A in 2015.
We looked at Rivera twice this year, first this profile by Wayne Cavadi back in late May.
. . .if Rivera got his shot, he actually has a chance at staying power. Rivera has the ability to play five positions decently enough and has a hit profile that suggests that he can be a serviceable pinch hitter or spot starter. . .It’s rare to sit here and write a profile about a utility player. Even if Rivera gets his chance and becomes a serviceable super-sub for the next five or six years, he will likely be forgotten a year later. But Rivera’s odd case simply caught my eye. If he keeps hitting, the Mets will one day have to see what he can do.
Now by no means do I expect Rivera to come up to the major leagues and be the savior of a struggling lineup, but he will provide them with a solid bat that works great at-bats. He has produced at every level of the minor leagues and if there is one thing missing from the current Mets lineup it is production. If Rivera came up to the Mets and hit at least .280 on a consistent basis, then, even without hitting home runs, he may ignite a dormant Mets offense. We all know hitting can be contagious so why not spread it all over the Mets lineup sooner rather than later?
Rivera was certainly a key cog for the Mets once he got his opportunity. Can he keep this up?
I don't see why not. Maybe not .333 in a full season but .280 with moderate power? Certainly. This guy has hit at every level: he holds a .324/.371/.434 career slash line over 625 minor league games and had no trouble at all adapting as he moved up each level. His wRC+ marks have been positive every year including 144 in Double-A last year and 142 in Triple-A this year. Yes, he benefited from playing in the PCL this season but he's hit everywhere. What he did in the majors is not out of context at all.
OK ,so Rivera is not the fastest runner or toolsiest guy on the field, but the same was said about Justin Turner when he was coming up.
Don't under-estimate Rivera.