TJ RIVERA TIME by Tom Brennan
TJ Rivera gets promoted in the tail end of his 6th minor league season, doing it the hard way. Ironically, the undrafted Met was called up while first round pick Brandon Nimmo was sent down.
A few days ago, I noted that Hillary Clinton broke a glass ceiling, theoretically, with her nomination, although the glass ceiling of having a qualified, honest woman become the nominee is still unshattered...but I saw TJ as having his own glass ceiling. he is qualified, his just shattered (maybe Paul Sewald's ceiling will shatter soon too...just thinking out loud there).
Last year, when I started to actually get on the TJ Train, I wrote an article comparing him to a relatively low power, high contact, high average guy who had a pretty darned good major league career, Jeff Keppinger. Rivera has done nothing whatsoever to dispel that comparison this year. He made it even more compelling.
Many Mets prospects have been called up the past few years and most have mightily struggled with the stick. Lest we think TJ is the latest in line for dishing out disappointments with the big club, here are some delightful facts about Rivera:
He is a career .323 hitter over 2,400 at bats. Nice, but...
He has hit .340 the past 3 years. Better.
He is hitting .349 this year after a 17 for 32 surge over the past 9 games. Nice but...
He is hitting an incredible .398 with runners on base this year. Extraordinarily un-Metlike.
Of course, one needs to wonder about the Vegas hitting inflation effect. He did hit .350 in AA a few years back, so he is not by any means just a Vegas hitting creation. And, guess what...he has hit an amazing .356 on the road this year. Some of those parks are also hitter friendly, but not all.
He has always been viewed as a contact guy, and hence never hit in the middle of the line up until this year. He is still a contact guy, but added some power, and batting in the middle of the Vegas line up this year, has a tremendous 80 RBIs in 97 games this year.
What is not to like there?
Contact is his game: in about 825 plate appearances this year and last, mostly in AAA, he has just 97 strikeouts., so there is a good chance he will have a fine-to-palatable K rate in the bigs.
He has played all 4 infield positions in his career, and made just 7 errors this year (majority of this year's games at 2B). He's even managed to squeeze in 8 games in the OF in his career. He has not played SS in quite a while, but did play 139 games there early in his career, so he has that flexibility. He has not caught, but my guess is, in a pinch, he can.
He does not walk much, and his 11 homers this year are his career high, but he has compiled quite a resume, is well deserving and, I'm loving that .398 with runners on base.
He should be worked into the line up for the Mets, because hitting with guys on base has been an awfully rare commodity for the Queens boys this year. Terry, do not let him rot on the bench, please.
Welcome aboard, TJ. Or should I call you Jeff Keppinger II?