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MLB Rookie Profile: TJ Rivera, INF, New York Mets

Unusual 28-year-old rookie can contribute if given the chance

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

At age 28, Mets rookie T.J. Rivera is atypical as prospects go. Originally signed in 2011 as a non-drafted free agent from Troy University, Rivera has been a strong performer at every level, boosting his stock over the last five years from roster-filler to genuine prospect by hitting .324/.371/.434 over 624 minor league games. He then hit .330/.342/.472 in 105 at-bats for the Mets last fall.

Back in October we wrote this article about him, drawing on previous comments and articles we’d run during the summer.

We concluded:

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.

That all still stands.

Rivera went just 4-for-26 but with a pair of home runs while playing for Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. In regular Mets camp he hit .297/.282/.568 with four doubles and two homers in 37 at-bats. He was on the roster bubble but ended up making the team.

The Fangraphs projection systems aren’t hugely impressed, with Steamer projecting .276/.312/.378 and ZIPS .262/.299/.364, PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus is more optimistic at .279/.317/.407.

Personally, I’d go with the PECOTA numbers and it would not surprise me to see him exceed those too.

Do not underestimate this guy.