The Detroit Tigers used their second round pick in 2017 on big first baseman Rey Rivera. Can he avoid becoming another bust?
The Detroit Tigers have struggled to draft position players in recent years. Since 2000, the Tigers have drafted seven positions players in the first or supplemental first round. Of those seven, only two have a career bWAR over 1.0: Cameron Maybin and Nick Castellanos (one of them is Christin Stewart, who will hopefully eclipse that next season). For second rounders, only James McCann is over zero.
By and large this team has struggled to draft and develop hitting talent. 2017 second round pick Rey Rivera will strive to be one of Detroit’s few success stories, but the early returns have not been too promising.
Rivera was plucked in the second round, number 51 overall, out of Chipola Junior College in Marianna Florida. He saw action in 52 games down the stretch in 2017, all with the short season Connecticut Tigers. It was not a rousing start for the 20-year-old, who slashed just .187/.261/.280 with two home runs and swiped three bases. His 8.7% walk rate wasn’t too bad, although pitchers at that level don’t have the best control. More concerning was his 26.6% strikeout rate.
Rivera set out with a lot to prove in 2018. He was given an aggressive assignment at Single-A West Michigan, where he was the team’s primary first baseman. He also played left field and right field, showing off a little defensive flexibility.
Offensively, Rivera had an up and down season. He hit nine home runs in 115 games, which isn’t great but is a big step up from his 2017 performance. He slashed .237/.295/.390 with a 93 wRC+. Again, these numbers aren’t great but they are better than what he posted in his first year. His 26.2% strikeout rate is roughly the same. Frankly, Rivera will need to cut down on the strikeouts if he wants to make it to the show.
Obviously, it’s a bit too early to make any sweeping generalizations about Rivera. He has yet to look like a big league caliber hitter, but one solid year will launch him right back into the prospect conversation.
Rivera will be one of Detroit’s most intriguing prospects to watch in 2019. A good season and he’s back on the prospect watchlist. A bad season and his star will be really, really dim.