Posted by Thomas Brennan at 8:00 AM
Tom Brennan – Can TJ Become JT?
TJ Rivera has been given Rodney Dangerfield’s uniform by the Mets since Day 1, when he went undrafted.
There have always been infield guys ahead of him, and he had to fight for playing time in the minors constantly…but he fought – successfully - by HITTING.
Hey, he led AAA in hitting in 2016, and hit .333 in a long cup of coffee with the Mets late in the season when he FINALLY GOT CALLED UP – long after Campbell, Reynolds, and Muno did.
The question is: can TJ become JT?
In other words, can the Justin Turner model that leads to major league extended playing time and riches become the TJ Rivera model? If I were TJ, I would have JT as my future model for sure.
Let’s run through Turner’s career, shall we? Then compare his career to where Rivera is at, and make suggestions for the latter based on the production of the former.
Monsieur Turner had many similarities to Rivera to this point in Rivera’s career:
Turner made the majors late (a few months short of 25), while Rivera made it 3 years later – both late arrivals. But Turner only had 841 major league at bats before his age 29 season, so Rivera is less behind Turner than it might first appear, in terms of career progress vs. age.
Turner was a 7th rounder in 2006, while Rivera was undrafted. Historically, my sense is that 7th rounders do better than non-draftees, but not by all that much. Neither is expected to do much as a major leaguer, or they’d have been drafted in early rounds.
Turner is listed at 5’11”, 205, Rivera at 6’1”, 205. Similar in size.
Turner hit well in the minors, but with a real lack of power. 1,999 at bats, 38 homers, .308/.373.441.
Rivera in the minors? 2,415 at bats, 35 homers, .324/.371/.434 …quite similar to Turner, wouldn’t ya say?.
Turner’s first four years in the majors with the Mets (plus an 18 at bat debut with the Orioles in 2009), he was a very low powered, OK hitter: 841 at bats, just 8 homers, and a so-so .261/.325/.361. One homer every 105 at bats. Wimpy.
Then he was signed by the Dodgers and transformed into Popeye: .340 in 288 at bats in 2014 with 7 homers (1 every 41 at bats); 385 at bats in 2015 hitting .294 with 16 homers (1 every 24 at bats); and .275 in 2016, with 27 homers in 556 at bats (1 homer ever 20 at bats, plus a slew of doubles). He slugged between .491 and .493 in each of those last 3 years, by the way.
To me, he looked bulked up with the Dodgers as opposed to his days as an “I’ll-smash-a-pie-in-your-face” Met.
Oh yeah – and due to his bulked up production, he just signed for 4 years, $64 million!!!! Grandy likes those numbers.
TJ Rivera only has 105 at bats in the majors, but hitting .333, with a very nice 4 doubles, a triple and 3 homers in that stretch, giving him a .476 slugging % in his debut short season, after his .353/.393/.516 spectacular in AAA earlier in 2016, in which he hit 11 homers in 405 at bats. That’s an overall rate of 1 homer every 36 at bats, a big improvement over his earlier years, but still pretty low.
So, here is my suggestion to TJ:
Bulk that torso up with 15 more pounds of muscle, to 6’1”, 220, to try to generate more power; try to then match Turner’s year by year major league progress; and sign a big bucks contract in a few years…or not take real steps to add power, and be endlessly shuttling back and forth to Vegas for the next several years.
If it were me, I’d do everything LEGALLY possible to add strength and power – and become a multi-millionaire like JT.