T.J. Rivera may have a tough time finding playing time with the New York Mets in 2019. Let’s examine some of the best and worst possible outcomes for him this year.
T.J. Rivera‘s rise to the big leagues and onto the New York Mets was not a conventional one. The Bronx New York native graduated Lehman high school in 2006 and was named as a top 100 high school prospect in the U.S. to look out for just a year before by some amateur scouts.
After high school, Rivera traveled down to Alabama and played for ex-Met catcher, Mackey Sasser, at Wallace Community College for a few years.
Rivera hit well enough down there to earn a scholarship to nearby Troy University. At Troy, Rivera batted over .300 in his two seasons with the Trojans and helped them reach the College World Series Regionals in 2011.
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Just a few days after his last game at Troy University, Rivera hoped to hear his name called at Major League baseball’s Amatuer Draft. Over 1500 players were selected in that 2011 draft but unfortunately he wasn’t one of them. Rivera’s coach at Wallace junior college, Mackey Sasser, was shocked.
“I can’t believe no one drafted T.J., you can’t go wrong with him,” recalls Sasser when speaking to a former Mets scout who asked for information on the contact hitter back in 2011.
“He’s a blue-collar player who can really hit,” praised the former Mets backstop about his pupil.
Rivera was eventually signed as a non-drafted free agent by the New York Mets a few weeks later.
From 2011 to 2015, the Bronx native rose steadily through the Mets minor league system. He proved that he could hit for average and contact at every level just as he did in college. Rivera finished with a lifetime .318 batting average in all three minor league levels combined. He batted .306 in Triple-A through 54 games in 2015 before making his Major League debut in 2016. His only knock was he didn’t walk a lot nor did he hit much for power.
Late in 2016, while having a stellar career year for the Las Vegas-51’s Triple-A team yet again, Rivera got the call up to play for the Mets. He was hitting a career-best .353 with 11 home runs and 85 RBI before he got the promotion to the big show.
In 33 games with the Mets in 2016, Rivera continued his success at the plate batting .333 with 4 home runs and 16 RBI’s in a little over 100 at-bats. In 2017, Rivera played in 73 Major League games for the Mets and posted a .290/.330/.430 line along with hitting 13 doubles. He also showed that he could be a Swiss Army knife in the field by playing an adequate 2B, 3B or first base when needed to.
Just as things were looking up for the Mets new utility grinder- devastation hit. Rivera suffered a partially torn UCL in his right elbow at the end of July. He was forced to get Tommy John surgery in September of 2017 and has not seen the major league baseball diamond since.
Rivera only managed to get in six games towards the end of 2018 with the Mets Triple-A team and hit a paltry .182 in the process. This, however, is a small sample size and after 15 months off, shouldn’t be factored in too much from what we can expect from him in 2019.
I believe he used those games just to get acclimated with everyday motions of playing the game again. If this is the case, what can we expect from the 30-year-old utility infielder going into 2019?