T. J. Rivera belongs in the lineup

It’s been an up and down season for the Mets so far, but unquestionably one bright spot has been T.J. Rivera. The 28-year-old rookie has been holding down the fort at first base while regular first sacker Lucas Duda has been on the DL. Duda has been working in extended spring training and his return to New York can’t be all that far off, perhaps in the middle part of this month. He will likely return to first base upon being activated, so where will that leave Rivera?

The right-handed-batting Rivera has been an offensive force for the Mets so far this season with a slash line of .309/.397/.491 as of this writing. It seems like a lot of his hits has been of the clutch variety, driving in runs in last Friday’s 8-7 win against the Marlins with a double and a homer and also driving in a run with a double in Monday’s 4-3 win over the Giants. To use him in a utility role subsequent to the return of Duda would seem to be a mistake. He’s an adequate fielder at second and third base, and he has hit better than anyone else who has played these positions so far for the Mets this season.

The third baseman for most of the season has been Jose Reyes. To say he has underperformed at the plate so far this year would be an understatement, failing to hit his weight (listed at 195 pounds) for just about the entire season. He has not exactly sparkled in the field either.

Rivera has always hit, his lifetime minor league average is .324, and he has been around the .300 mark in the majors as well. The Bronx native may not be a classic home run hitter but he certainly has doubles power, as shown by his seven doubles in just 55 at-bats this season.

Rivera is a battler, his climb to the majors has been an uphill one. He was undrafted out of Troy University in Alabama and has gradually worked his way through most every level of minor league ball. He seems willing to play wherever he is needed, though most of his time in the minors was spent at second and third base.

Terry Collins should slot Rivera as the everyday third baseman once Duda returns. Reyes could slide into an infield utility role, backing up Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop, Neil Walker at second, and Rivera at third. This is basically the role that was envisioned for Reyes when he was first signed during last season.

Rivera’s story is a feel-good one, finally making it to the major leagues after being passed over by all 30 major league teams through 40 rounds of the MLB draft, but that’s not the reason he deserves a starting spot after Duda returns. He’s earned it though his production.

15 comments for “T. J. Rivera belongs in the lineup

  1. TJ Fan
    May 10, 2017 at 8:09 am

    Yes!!! I’ve been saying this for two years now. Glad to see others are catching on.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

    • John Fox
      May 10, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      TJ fan, I haven’t been saying it for two years like you but I am saying it now

  2. Chris F
    May 10, 2017 at 8:19 am

    T J ! ! !

    This guy needs to play.

  3. Met for life
    May 10, 2017 at 8:28 am

    who in his right mind wants to see vanilla Duda play

    • May 10, 2017 at 8:53 am

      Sorry that he doesn’t provide the Page Six headlines and the drama that you apparently crave. What he does produce is excellent OBP and SLG and the best infield defense at the position of anyone on the club. Put me at the front of the line of people who want to see Duda back in the lineup immediately, if not sooner.

  4. Popeye
    May 10, 2017 at 8:48 am

    TC loves his veterans. Can’t see him sitting Reyes,especially now that he is swinging the bat. He wouldn’t even sit him when he was hitting below 100!

    • Name
      May 10, 2017 at 10:44 am

      After a little power outburst of 3 HRs in 5 games and a 7 game hit streak that doubled his season OPS, i think we’re primed to see another monster slump from Reyes.

      Last 7 games .231/.300/.308

      • Jimmy P
        May 10, 2017 at 11:37 am

        I believe those numbers, around a 650 OPS, maybe 700, are the norm for Reyes. He needs to sit more.

        However, Mets do not have a bonafide backup for 3B, though I suppose/hope that Flores/Rivera can handle it in small doses. And with Cabrera needing rest, please, Reyes can get time at SS too.

        Won’t be easy making out the lineup card every day. He’ll be second-guessed to death once Cespedes, Duda return.

        It should all work out to the positive, though some guys are going to receive the short straw. Such is life.

  5. Jimmy P
    May 10, 2017 at 9:17 am

    I don’t believe Rivera is a capable, everyday third baseman.

    But I haven’t seen a lot of him over there.

    One thing we know is that with Duda out, Mets preferred Flores at 3B and put Rivera at 1B, where he has little experience.

    And we know that Flores has no arm whatsoever.

    So, yes, I wish Rivera could play 3B. I just see no evidence that he can.

    Like Flores, I don’t think he has to play every day to be useful to the NY Mets. He can also push a fragile Duda for playing time.

  6. Eraff
    May 10, 2017 at 11:00 am

    Yeah…I want to be worried that we have 1 healthy and productive ballplayer too many!

  7. May 10, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    Took a quick look at Rivera’s stats for any red flags. His babip is well above .300, but his career babip is also above .300. His ground ball rate is below his career average this year, while his fly ball rate is well above average. He’s also sporting an ISO that’s on the high-end. Unless we happened across a superstar in the rough, I believe his produnction will regress some.

    • John Fox
      May 10, 2017 at 3:34 pm

      mike, Rivera’s increased flyball rate this year may have been prompted by the influence of batting coach Kevin Long who has been known to suggest swing changes to get the ball in the air more

      • May 10, 2017 at 5:40 pm

        What initially caught my attention was how different it was, but now that I’ve had time to think I’d also be concerned he hits so many fly balls. Line drives tend to be a hitter’s best friend.

  8. Dalton Allison
    May 11, 2017 at 9:08 am

    If they win games with him in the lineup, keep him in there. He has been crucial in some of the big wins this season.

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