Rising Through The Ranks: Dustin Lawley and T.J. Rivera

An article by posted on December 30, 2013

MiLB: April 29 - St. Lucie Mets at Tampa YankeesThere are two Mets prospects that I will be keeping a very close eye on in 2014, and I would suggest other Mets fans do the same.

It’s not Noah Syndergaard…it’s not Rafael Montero…nope, it’s not even Travis d’Arnaud.

The two Mets prospects everyone should be keeping an eye on in 2014 are T.J. Rivera and Dustin Lawley.

Everyone loves an underdog, and these guys bring something to the table that a lot of other prospects don’t—heart.

Lawley and Rivera are working hard to prove their worth in the Mets’ system after being Division II college ball players. Lawley was selected in the 19th round of the 2011 draft, and Rivera, well he wasn’t drafted at all.

These two men, as unlikely as it is, have established themselves as two of the top offensive threats in the Mets farm system. Lawley has shown off a tremendous amount of power and athleticism, working his way up to Triple-A in only his second full season in professional baseball. Rivera, however, has arguably been the Mets top producing middle infield prospect over the past three seasons.

The Mets continue to use high draft picks on middle infielders, and Rivera continues to outperform them all. One has to wonder when people will start to treat Rivera with the respect that he deserves, and not some undrafted free agent. Will this black eye ever go away?

Lawley, although moving through the system very quickly, also gets overlooked. For all the talk about Cesar Puello, it’s more than likely that Lawley makes his major league debut before Puello. In fact, there is a good chance that Lawley is called up some time during 2014 if he continues raking like landscapers in the middle of the fall.

Rivera’s case is a little more complex. He was asked to convert to hitting leadoff in 2013, which, I can attest, is not the easiest thing to do if you are used to hitting later in the lineup.

During my sophomore year of college, I was asked by my coach to move from right field to center field, and move from the No. 3 hole in the lineup to hitting leadoff. What ensued, was the worst slump I ever had. I was mired in a 1-for-20 spring trip before my coach moved me back to right field and the No. 3 spot in the lineup.

The two changes at once may have been the perfect storm for me. You may be asking why I am bringing up what I went through and how it applies to Rivera’s situation. Here’s why…

Rivera did a fantastic job in the leadoff role with St. Lucie in 2013, and his move to leadoff now has me wondering if this was a two step process that could have him in the mix as a future leadoff hitting shortstop for the Mets in the very near future.

The Mets already had former second round pick, Matt Reynolds, playing shortstop for St. Lucie, so it was the optimal situation to make a two-step change with Rivera so that he wouldn’t be overwhelmed.

t.j. riveraSecond base is log jammed with talent in the Mets organization. They have Daniel Murphy at the big league level, Wilmer Flores waiting in the wings, and now Dilson Herrera has been added to the mix. On the other hand, shortstop is one of the thinnest positions in the Mets organization. The top shortstop prospects, Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario, have yet to play a full season of professional baseball.

Moving Rivera to shortstop isn’t the craziest of notions. The guy has played multiple professional games at shortstop, and the only way to see if this kid can be an everyday shortstop may be to test him out. If anyone can make the permanent transition, my money is on Rivera.

The only knock I hear when Rivera’s name is brought up is how his power numbers have dropped off from 2012 to 2013. There is no doubt in my mind that if you moved Rivera out of the leadoff spot, those power numbers would return. This is a guy that took the move to hitting leadoff seriously, and adjusted his game to be a successful leadoff hitter. He embraced the leadoff role, and excelled in it.

Rivera and Lawley—two guys we may see making their Citi Field debut sooner than later. Both are hard-working guys who seem motivated by having something to prove. The odds are against them, but rather than simply being happy with being able to call themselves professional ball players, they seem to want more than just that. They seem hungry. It makes them easy to root for, and with 2014 just a couple of days away, you might want to write those two names down as guys to watch next season if you haven’t done so already.

If you want to learn a little bit more about these guys, watch the video attached below.

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