T.J. and the crowded infield

The story had almost every element imaginable that you could want to it. He is from New York City. In high school, the field he played on had no pitcher’s mound. He went undrafted out of Troy University, and signed with the New York Mets. T.J. Rivera was electric when he rose up to the Mets, and became a cult favorite player amongst Mets fans. For good reason, as he proved that he could hit for average. All was well for Rivera, until he sustained an elbow injury. This injury forced Rivera to be sidelined for the complete 2018 season.

Stepping up in his absence was Jeff McNeil, who used his high contact swing to add a pure hitter to the lineup. Now that Rivera is back, it should be interesting to see how he fits into the lineup. McNeil made the conversation of what to do with Rivera when he returns a lot harder. At bats during spring training will be monumental in deciding who will be jogging out to the field on Opening Day. There is hardly enough room for the infielders that take the field now, so where does Rivera fit into the picture?

There is no easy answer to this question. It is a near lock on the middle infield positions for who will be getting the nod on Opening Day. This however, is a good problem to have. We have heard non-stop this offseason about Brodie Van Wagenen talking about how he has fixed plugs on the team so that there is a better solution if someone goes down with injury. This is perfect for a guy like Rivera. Rivera will have to wait in the wings while a bunch of 30 year-olds are slowly, but surely wearing their bodies down to play a game that they love.

Rivera, of course, is 30 as well. He has not however played in as many games as Robinson Cano or Todd Frazier, so his body has not taken the same damage that theirs has. Rivera has been very lightly discussed heading into this season, which is confusing because could potentially bring a lot of value. Rivera, in his time in the big leagues, has accumulated a batting average of .304 while also driving in 47 career runs. His swing, built to hit line drives, won’t be a stranger to the eyes of Mets fans this season.

There are plenty of claims as to why Rivera should receive a roster spot this season for the Mets. His first two seasons for the team were strong, and there is no reason to believe that he will be unable to do it again. Finding him at-bats will be the biggest struggle surrounding his name this season, as most of the at-bats he was going to be taking are now in possession of McNeil. As a Mets fan, it is exciting to see such infield depth coming from the minors, while also having quality talent on the front line. It will be a spectacular infield this season, and Rivera is going to be a part of it.

11 comments for “T.J. and the crowded infield

  1. February 23, 2019 at 9:35 am

    Rivera is a bad defender with very little power the Mets have much more appealing options than him.

  2. Mike Walczak
    February 23, 2019 at 9:39 am

    TJ would be more valuable if he played more positions.

    • Eric Bloom
      February 23, 2019 at 12:24 pm

      Is this sarcasm? 1b, 2b, 3b, LF?

      • Mike Walczak
        February 23, 2019 at 6:53 pm

        You forgot Catcher, Pitcher and Short Stop.

  3. TJ
    February 23, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    TJ reminds me a lot of Wilmer, with less MLB accomplishments. Easy guy to root for, provides some RH pop, can play a few positions but hurts you on defense no matter where he plays. Josh Satin is another comp. He will have a tough time getting on the 25 man roster, but in baseball, you just never know. Good depth piece but I’m not sure how many options he has and whether they would select Dilson Herrera over him at this point.

  4. TexasGusCC
    February 23, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    Yesterday I saw a clip of an interview given by Jeff McNeil, where he discusses how he had to add power to his game and how he did it. However, McNeil is 26 and Rivera is 30. So, how does Rivera catch up? Well, he needs to hit the weights, and he needs to hang out with Mike Barwis to build up his fluidity and speed.

    Rivera is a victim of the Lagares/Bruxton roster duplicity because if JD Davis could have been an outfielder, that’s one spot that Rivera had a chance at.

  5. February 23, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    Guys like TJ and Eric Campbell and McNeil and JD Davis remind you of how hard it is to be an MLB player…it’s especially amazing how skillful a guy needs to be when they give him a multi positional opportunity to sniff an mlb chance.

  6. February 24, 2019 at 8:05 am

    Hope there is a way to keep TJ. The man can rake given enough AB’s, and there’s the challenge. If Mets can find a taker for Frazier (big if) then TJ may be able to stay, backup at 3b and 1b, there is much better depth for 2b in McNeil, Lowrie, Hecheveria, Herrera.
    I think Mets will keep Dom Smith for now, as backup at 1b and a lefty bat off the bench, let him prove to be of value and push Alonso. However, if he proves he can stay up at this level, could be trade bait at the deadline for a need that props up during the April – June period. With TJ, Dom Smith may be very dispensable.

  7. Metsense
    February 24, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    Player A career vs RHP: 325/358/487/845 and plays 3b,2b,1b & (?) LF
    Player B career vs RHP: 222/262/437/699 and plays 1b & (?) LF

    Player A has no pedigree and 30 yoa and hunger.
    Player B is a first round draft pick with 332 MLB AB’s to proof himself and is 23 yoa and has options.

    In this “win now’ atmosphere, I would take player A (TJ Rivera) over Player B (Dominic Smith).

    • TexasGusCC
      February 24, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      Good point. Can’t debate that.

    • Chris F
      February 24, 2019 at 8:18 pm

      I prefer Player C

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