A Rivas Runs Through It
Alfonso Rivas (PIT): 3-5, 2B, R, 5 RBI.
After a solid April, the Pirates faded from the postseason race over the course of the summer. They sit currently 74-81 and will have missed the playoffs for the 8th straight season.
That said, there are still plenty of positives to take away from 2023 for the Buccos.
Pittsburgh has already won 12 more games than a year ago, and they still have seven games left to play. In addition, they have seen some improvement from some young players who could be key pieces in 2024 and beyond.
It’s possible that Alfonso Rivas could be one of those players who could have an impact in Pittsburgh in 2024.
At the beginning of the season, the Pirates relied on Ji-Man Choi and Carlos Santana for production at the first base position. Both were eventually traded away, with Santana traded to Milwaukee, and Choi traded along with Rich Hill in a deal with San Diego that eventually netted the Pirates Rivas.
After a surprising 18-game stint in 2021 with the Cubs where he hit .318 with a .797 OPS, Rivas has failed to do much at the Major League since.
In 101 games with the Cubs in 2022, Rivas hit .235 with a .629 OPS, a disappointing regression. As a result, the Cubs released him in the winter, and the Padres picked him up on a Minor League deal. Much like he did in the Cubs organization, Rivas mashed in Triple-A El Paso this season, as he hit .332 with a 1.044 OPS in 260 plate appearances. He doesn’t possess a lot of natural home run power, but he has shown in the Minors that he can effectively find gaps as a hitter.
His stint with the Padres was a brief one at the Major League level (only eight games played), as he didn’t get many opportunities on a team loaded with established players. However, the Pirates have given him a more extended look since coming over in the Hill-Choi trade.
Rivas has played 38 games and accumulated 102 plate appearances with the Pirates over the past couple of months. He isn’t hitting for a high average (.222), but the power has come along in his third season at the Major League level. His slugging this season is .433 and he also is posting an OPS of .716. He also has three home runs, which is the same number of home runs that he had in 287 plate appearances in 2022.
It’s hard to tell what kind of impact Rivas will have in Pittsburgh beyond this season.
He’s 26 years old, so he’s a that age where he’s not really a “prospect” anymore. The Pirates also have Connor Joe on the roster, who has been the Pirates’ more regular first baseman after Santana and Choi were traded away. Joe still has years of club control remaining, much like Rivas.
Nonetheless, the former Oakland Athletics draft pick and University of Arizona product still provides a lot of intrigue. He is also hitting .286 with a .757 OPS this month as well.
If Rivas finishes strong, he could perhaps throw himself into the starting first-base discussion in Spring Training with Joe (as long as a free-agent first baseman isn’t acquired this winter).
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Christian Encarnacion-Strand (CIN): 3-5, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
The Reds lost a 13-12 slugfest to the Pirates, and their playoff hopes seem to get dimmer by the game. However, Encarnacion-Strand was able to keep Cincinnati in the game with a three-hit, four-RBI performance that also included his 10th home run of the year. It may be another “playoff-less” October for Reds fans. That said, the promising development of their young hitters like Encarnacion-Strand should give hope that 2024 could be the end of that streak.
Josh Lowe (TB): 3-5, HR, R, 4 RBI.
The Rays seem to be a lock to make the postseason but are still holding out hope that they can come from behind and take the division from the Orioles. On Saturday, against the Blue Jays (who are also in the division race), the Rays helped their cause, as they won 7-6. Lowe had a big game as he collected three hits, and four RBI, and not only hit his 19th home run of the season but also drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
Yandy Díaz (TB): 4-4, 2B, HR, R, RBI.
Díaz’s breakout 2023 campaign continued on Saturday as he had a four-hit game and hit his 21st home run of the year. Díaz is currently hitting .327 and sporting a .922 OPS as the Rays’ primary leadoff man. His consensus ADP was 228 last draft season, according to Fantasy Pros. Expect that to be a lot higher in next year’s drafts.
J.D. Martinez (LAD): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI.
The switch in setting from New England to Southern California has suited Martinez well this season. He is currently hitting .270 with a .897 OPS and with 31 home runs, he has nearly doubled his home-run total from his final season in Boston last year (16). Martinez doesn’t have much defensive value, as he has been the Dodgers’ primary DH this season. That said, if the Dodgers want to get back to the World Series, Martinez’s bat will be key, though health has been a factor holding him back this year (only 450 plate appearances).
Alec Bohm (PHI): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Bohm is proving that he needs to be a key building block for the Phillies beyond 2023. He is hitting .281 while also posting a .781 OPS to boot. He also has mashed 19 home runs, nearly six better than a season ago. While the division belongs to Atlanta, the Phillies seem primed to make the postseason as a Wild Card participant. Expect Bohm, the Phillies’ three-hole hitter, to be key in the Phillies’ performance this postseason.
Esteury Ruiz (OAK): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
The A’s have been bad, but Ruiz, when healthy, has not. While the .253 average and .655 OPS leave a bit to be desired, his 63 stolen bases are the second-highest number in the league, behind only Ronald Acuña Jr. While Acuña does have five more stolen bases than Ruiz, the Oakland outfielder has played in 27 fewer games. If Ruiz is fully healthy next year, 70 or 80 stolen bases could be in play.
Jo Adell (LAA): 1-3, HR, R, RBI, BB.
The Angels and Twins only managed one measly run between the two of them on Saturday night. And who was responsible for that run? It was Adell, who hit a solo home run in the fourth inning off of Twins starter Sonny Gray. In 35 plate appearances, Adell is only hitting .226, but his OPS is .959 thanks to his three home runs. The power is there for Adell to be an impact player for the Angels. But as always, it’s just a matter of ironing out his plate discipline, as Adell is sporting a 40% strikeout rate in his 35 PAs this year.
Miles Mastrobuoni (CHC): 2-3, 2 R, BB, SB.
After getting acquired from Tampa Bay this past November, Mastrobuoni has gotten to play in 55 games at the Major League level this year on a Cubs team fighting for a playoff spot. Power is not Mastrobuoni’s strong suit, as he only is posting a .316 slugging and .639 OPS. On the other hand, his BB/K ratio of 0.46 is decent, and he also has 12 stolen bases this season. Mastrobuoni is the ideal nine-hole hitter, though his profile may be a better fit at second base rather than third.
Carlos Santana (MIL): 1-3, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB.
The Brewers are on the verge of clinching the NL Central, though their 5-4 loss to Miami on Saturday didn’t help things. Santana certainly did his best to help, as he hit his 22nd home run of the year. After down 2021 and 2022 campaigns where he posted OPS numbers of .661 and .692, respectively, Santana has bounced back a bit in 2023. His OPS is .733 and his slugging is over .400 for the first time since 2019. His barrel rate (6.7%) and hard-hit rate (36.8%) are both down from a year ago, a sign that Santana may not have long left in the MLB. Nonetheless, Santana will certainly enjoy this possible last ride for him in the postseason.
Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)