Before we even begin to discuss Rivera specifically, we should review the OF situation, at least as I see it. For starters, we only have one OF name pre-printed into the lineups, and that is Carlos Gonzalez. The question with Gonzalez is what position will he play? The fielding metrics, specious as they may be, all suggested that Gonzalez thrived in LF, and was below average in CF and RF (and that's looking at UZR, TotalZone, and RZR). This shouldn't really be a problem, as the CF position SHOULD be manned by Dexter Fowler, who graded out as below average in CF but not epically so.
This effectively leaves RF open for the taking. One thought is to put Gonzalez there and let him actually acclimate to the position over the course of the season, putting Seth Smith in LF, where he's shown very good defense. Backing up the corners (and 3rd string CF) is Ryan Spilborghs, who graded out VERY poorly in all three defensive metrics, but is capable of playing the positions, and has that right-handed bat the team so craves.
However, Spilly may not be the best solution for Colorado heading into 2011, and the organization can't be very high on Seth Smith after his poor finish to 2010. While Fowler didn't exactly light any lamps in 2010, he's still very young and very raw, far from a finished product.
Bottom line, it looks like CF and at least one corner OF spot are taken care of for 2011. As for the second corner OF position, this is where Rivera might fit in.
Details past the jump.
Juan Rivera has been an interesting case for the Angels the past 6 years. He's shown flashes of brilliance, peaking in 2006 with a .310/.362/.525 line, good for a .887 OPS, .373 wOBA, and a 128 wRC+. 2009 was his next best year, with a .287/.332/.478 line, .810 OPS, .348 wOBA, 114 wRC+. 2010 was somewhat pedestrian, but at least he was right around an average bat, hitting .252/.312/.409, .721, .314, 96 wRC+.
- Is a right-handed bat. Considering that only Ryan Spilborghs is the only full-time RHB in the outfield, being able to cycle Rivera into one of the corners (he's done well in RF in his MLB career) will add just that extra bit of LHP-hitting goodness. For his career, Rivera has hit Lefties at a 120 wRC+ rate, and Righties at a 106 wRC+ rate. Rivera can at least keep his head above water vs RHP, but he could be a definite positive vs LHP.
- Positional Versatility. This is really a nice little nugget to have found about Rivera. While almost exclusively an outfielder with Anaheim (playing mostly the corners), he did start 11 games at 1B in Kendry Morales' absence, and despite the absurdly small sample, looks to have done a good job at it. Now, whether or not he'd be able to repeat solid 1B play is another question, but at least it's a positive sign. We're looking at LF and RF reps and potentially that RHB 1B option we've been wanting all season long.
- Hits on the road. Trying to get a handle on home/road splits for guys who don't play in absurd hitter/pitcher parks is always a bit tricky, because I'm never sure what to make of the splits. Good thing wRC+ is park-adjusted, because that at least points us in the right direction. For his career, Rivera posted a 106 wRC+ at home and 111 on the road. 2009 and 2010 showed Rivera hitting SUBSTANTIALLY better on the road than at home (101/125; 71/122), and while you want to know you're getting a rounded experience from a batter, we've seen Coors Field work wonders with new batters.
- He's Available. The Angels are looking to pick up Carl Crawford, or another big-name free agent bat. Should the Angels succeed in this acquisition, they'd be sporting an outfield of Carl Crawford, Peter Bourjos, and Torii Hunter, moving Bobby Abreu to the primary DH (spelling the corners, and then Hunter or Crawford spelling Bourjos in CF), and essentially making Rivera the odd-man out. There isn't any official indication of this, so we could be grasping at straws here, but come on, it's offseason trade rumors. This suggests that a friendly deal could be made for Rivera.
- Is injury prone. Juan Rivera has never played 140 games in a season. He's broken 500PA once, in 2009. He's faced a number of leg injuries, tweaked hamstrings, the like, and it's sapped his production.
- Is somewhat expensive. Rivera signed a 3-year, $12.75M contract with the Angels during the 2008 offseason, and is due $5.25M for the 2012 season. This really isn't THAT expensive of a contract, but for that much money, we'd need to get 500-600PA out of him, and the only way that happens is if he plays a lot of 1B and RF. This will hinge not only on his own health, but the health and production of Todd Helton, Seth Smith, and Ryan Spilborghs (assuming they're all on the 2011 roster).
All said and done, I've had my eye on Rivera for several years now. Mostly for fantasy reasons, but he could be a piece the team needs.
Odds and ends about our AFL prospects. Charles Blackmon and Jordan Pacheco are raking, and other small sample notes about our prospects.