Tom Brennan – Can TJ Become JT?


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.


Thomas Brennan said...

Oh, and a happy New Years to all.

Anonymous said...

Same to you, Tom..........I agree that TJ should be given every opportunity to stay with the Mets this season. He reminds me more of Ben Zobrist (if he fully develops), which would be a nice return on an undrafted player.

Also funny how Sandy gets blasted for letting Turner go, as if anyone saw his power surge coming (see your before and after stats). Not to mention that David Wright was healthy and entrenched at third for the future.

I am also skeptical on how Turner suddenly became the offensive force that he is. Did he resort to PED's? Fair question, IMO. Or did he suddenly find a new work ethic in LA that previously didn't exist?

Back on topic.......I think TJ will be a valuable player going forward.

Thomas Brennan said...

I just think if I were TJ, I would really try to bulk up to add power. Like I said, that is what Turner did. I remember him looking like a guy playing weekend office baseball physically, but with LAD, he looked bulked. If TJ can add muscle and a little distance to his game, it could be very financially rewarding. Just ask Turner. If Turner is getting away with PEDs (and my guess is he is not), it really paid off for him, right or wrong.

Sandy does get a bum rap on Turner, mostly.

Mack Ade said...

Guys -

I have had the same thoughts about Turner.

Tom, your suggestion regarding Rivera is spot on. A few muscles here and a few muscles there would result in a few million here and a few million there.

Happy New Year's guys.

Thomas Brennan said...

happy and healthy new year, Mack

Reese Kaplan said...

Well, you had Justin Turner being squandered by the current Skipper and I can also see the parallel of TJ Rivera meeting the same fate. It's funny how that works, huh?

Adam Smith said...

It would be great if TJ could simply bulk up and add strength (presumably without losing what quickness he has that allows him to marginally play defense?) but at 27 years old, I'' guessing that he's as strong as he will ever be, or pretty darn close. I do think that he's a potentially valuable member of a big league club right now, and even more so if he can play a little OF in addition to 1st, 2nd and 3rd. (If the guy could catch, he'd be super valuable.). Utility guys who can hit .280+ in the bigs are fine with me, even if their defense is meh. Not sure where he gets time with us if everyone is healthy, though on this club, everyone is NEVER healthy, so he'/ definitely a keeper. Nice insurance policy to have down in AAA to start the season, or as a 25th guy. a big key to TJ's usefulness here will be whether Cecchini ever gets his defense in order. We shall see, I guess. Glad that TJ finally got a small opportunity. Hope he continues to impress.

Thomas Brennan said...

Adam, I honestly think that physically, the Turner who last played with the Mets at age 29 was not as big or strong as he is currently. TJ can do it too.

Wright played just 75 games the past 2 years....he is coming off neck surgery, has progressive spinal stenosis, and is 2 years older than his last semi-full season. I can't see him turning into Cal Ripken and staying healthy and playing a ton. TJ will get his chance.

Heck, he just might be our opening day third baseman.

Mack Ade said...

Adam -

I do not think either T.J. or Cecchini will ever be the starting Mets shortstop.

I remember being asked by parents of an unnamed Mets minor leaguer if I thought their son would some day start in the Mets infield.

I said 'sure' but was thinking at the same time, 'there are only 30 starting shortstops in baseball'.

Shortstop will be Rosario's position. Period.

Thomas Brennan said...

Cecchini is another guy who (besides hoping for a rebirth at second base after poor shortstop fielding) needs to bulk up and add power. Moving from shortstop should allow him to not worry about the bulk hindering his shortstop play.

Of course, my favorite all time Mets SS (LOL) was the Incredible Bulk, Kevin Mitchell, another guy whose stay with the Mets was too short

Adam Smith said...

Hi Mack. I didn't mean to intimate that I believed either TJ or Cecchini would ever play regular SS for us. I certainly hope not. Cecchini looks to me like a back up/utility guy, who could, possibly, carve out a career as a starting 2B, if he can figure out his defensive issues. TJ is basically a marginal 2b, defensively, and has no business at SS in the bigs. Hopefully, Cabrera will stay healthy this year, because Reyes is the only real backup SS we have.

Mack Ade said...

Adam -

I hope you did not take my comment as something to dust things up. I was just giving my opinion which has been consistently wrong over the years :)

Have a blessed New Years, Adam.

Reese Kaplan said...

If we're talking about shortstops with power, let's not forget HoJo and the likely chemically aided Kevin Elster who once hit 24 HRs while playing for Texas.

Gary Seagren said...

Look just the fact that we won't have to see a game next year with Campbell and Mayberry Jr. in the middle of the lineup, as our roster depth is much improved, is a huge plus. The Justin Turner matter is curious at best because it's hard to believe you can go from the player he was before the Dodgers to 9th on the MVP ballot last year w/o some "help".... kind of like Lenny's Philly career....it'll be very interesting to see how his career plays out from here and HAPPY NEW YEAR guys.

Thomas Brennan said...

Very true, Reese...then there was Bud Harrelson! The Louisville Slugger himself.

Thomas Brennan said...

True, Gary.m. Happy New Year.

Mack's Mets © 2012