T.J. Rivera Named Player of the Month

t.j. rivera

And of course the Pacific Coast League has named Las Vegas 51s infielder T.J. Rivera Player of the Month for May. Because, why not?

Rivera, 27,  batted .373 in May with five home runs and 31 RBI, and currently leads the Pacific Coast League with 48 RBI.

He is batting a team leading .358 with a .398 on-base and .912 OPS for the season, and is a career .322 hitter in six minor league seasons.

Original Article – June 2

Maybe it’s time for the Mets to try on an unconventional hat. For many individuals and even for some sports teams, success comes as a result of taking a risk, of thinking out of the box, of being true to themselves. How else would you explain R.A. Dickey’s Cy Young success for the Mets several years ago?

It’s human nature sometimes to be cautious to overly analyze all the reasons something may not work choosing to stay with the original plan without taking the risk of making changes. Yet history shows when people find the courage to dare, the ability to take a “leap in faith” and pursue an unconventional path, great things sometimes happen.

Our New York Mets have reached a challenging juncture in the current baseball campaign. The Mets team was built around solid pitching and the home run power to score runs. That plan has worked admirably throughout the first quarter of the baseball campaign, but injuries shelving three of the eight original position players threaten to derail the Mets baseball train. It’s not time for “Panic City” but to steady a rocking ship. The Mets need some offensive support.

Is it possible that help already exists in the Mets system? What would be the harm of finally giving T.J. Rivera a chance to prove that he can hit at the major league level? The kid has hit at every level he’s played in professional baseball, and he’s simply ripping it up in Las Vegas. Concerns about his lack of defense range are secondary if Rivera is given a shot to prove his worth at third base.

But let’s not pretend that spinal stenosis has not already reduced David Wright to a shell of his former self on the defensive side of the field in the first place. It’s Rivera’s bat that we could use at the moment.

I am aware that if Rivera is elevated to the big squad, someone currently on the 40-man roster becomes vulnerable. There is an old saying that growth and comfort do not coexist. Sticking with the plan as originally devised is not the answer when aggressive risk-taking behaviors positioned us for success in the first place.

The Mets could easily make room on the 40 by removing Akeel Morris, Eric Campbell or if the news on Wright is true, put him on the 60 day DL or Lucas Duda for that matter. The point is the 40 is a weak excuse for not bringing up Rivera.

In just under 200 at-bats this spring in Las Vegas, T.J. Rivera has a .365/.399/.531 slash line. A proven contact hitter, Rivera has 12 doubles, 6 home runs and leads the team with 45 RBI’s, the top RBI total in the Pacific Coast League.

A recent PCL Player of the Week, Rivera recently led the conference in batting average although currently he has dipped to second in the batting title race. The Las Vegas infielder might provide the Mets with some small ball run production during a time when their HR production is lagging.

In an ESPN story on Rivera Adam Rubin wondered if there might be something in Rivera’s swing that is blocking his final step to the big leagues.

But, a National League scout threw water on that fire quickly:

“No there is not,” the scout told Rubin in reference to a possible flaw in his swing. “He just needs and opportunity. The kid hits and keeps hitting.”

In the spring it was Kevin Plawecki who marveled at Rivera’s work in the batter’s box and wondered out loud what it would take for someone to recognize that this kid could hit in the major leagues.

Even Ty Kelly, who recently got his major league shot with the Mets, heaped praise on Rivera to Rubin and was shocked he was promoted over Rivera.

“He swings at everything and hits everything, basically. One of the first basemen in the last series asked if there was a magnet on his barrel. He’s one of those guys. He doesn’t ever have to take pitches. He’s going to get hits because he can hit from his eyes to his ankles.”

For his part, Rivera keeps a bulldog mentality confident that if he continues to do what he always does – hit – his dream of becoming a major leaguer will come true.

When you look at the batting average numbers over other 51’s who got at least a cup of coffee at Citi Field over the past two seasons, you have to scratch your head at why TJ hasd’t received a shot.

T.J. Rivera .322
Dilson Herrera .301
Eric Campbell .288
Darrell Ceciliani .287
Ty Kelly .280
Kirk Nieuwenhuis .276
Matt Reynolds .275
Danny Muno .274
Johnny Monell .270

But, it’s not just about T.J. Rivera earning his shot. It’s more about the Mets utilizing a tool available in their own system to combat a troubling offensive drought.

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About John Bernhardt 165 Articles
MMO Minor League Analyst John Bernhardt is a retired public school teacher and administrator, who still coaches high school baseball. Growing up in a Yankees household, Bernhardt was an ardent Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra fan. When the Yankees fired Yogi in his first season as the Bomber manager, curiosity turned to passion when the Mets signed Berra as a player/coach and he has pulled for the Mets ever since. In retirement, John writes the sports for a local weekly, The Catskill Mountain News and hosts Tip-Off, a Friday morning sports hour, from 8:00-9:00 on WIOX, 91.3 F.M.