At age 28, NY Mets utility infielder T.J. Rivera may not be considered one of the teams top prospects. Indeed, he was just optioned back down to AAA after Saturday’s double header. But that doesn’t mean that he’s not a valuable member of the roster going forward. After graduating from Lehman High School in the Bronx he eventually went on to Troy University in Alabama. Rivera went undrafted after graduating in 2011. It wasn’t until former Mets catcher Mackey Sasser recommended him to a scout that the team signed him.
The T.J. Rivera Batting Approach
T.J., short for Thomas Javier, has played a lot of positions during a long minor league career. Rivera has consistently hit at every level, with a career minor league batting average of .324. At 6′ 1” and weighing 205 lbs, he is of average size and has average speed. He rarely walks and hits with little power. Instead he emphasizes contact, making contact on 80% of all pitches that he swings at. You can see T.J.’s exceptional contact rates in this heat-map for his major league career. You can see that he especially likes inside pitches, even when they’re not strikes.
He also sprays the ball to all fields, as seen in this chart:
His efforts to hit line drives can be seen in this batted ball outcome chart:
You’ve got stay aggressive and he’s got to trust his strike zone more than be passive. Being passive, he’s tried to do that and it just doesn’t work for him.
Growing Up in NY
T.J. told MLB.com earlier this year:
I grew up in an apartment building. We played Wiffle ball, football, on concrete. We played basketball with the garbage pails. Most of these guys grew up in Florida, where there are parks and fields. It’s hilarious telling them my story. My teammates call me ‘Hey Arnold’ from the old Nickelodeon show. He used to play in the street. That’s what they think of me as. It’s not even that we lived in a bad area, but that’s the New York style. For me, I always wanted to hit line drives. I don’t know if it came from playing Wiffle ball or what. But I didn’t want to hit the ball on top of the buildings, maybe that’s why. I try to take every day like it’s my last, that New York mentality. Nothing will be given to you. People have to grind out here in New York. They have no choice. Whatever you have, you make use of it.
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