New York Yankees Top 10 Prospects
By Josh Boyd
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Signed: Venezuela, 1996. Signed by: Raul Ortega.
Background: Rivera broke through as a prospect in 1998, nearly winning the Rookie-level Gulf Coast Leagues triple crown with a .333-12-45 effort. He did little the following two seasons to enhance his profile, and repeated the high Class A Florida State League before re-emerging at Double-A Norwich in 2001. Rivera could be excused for being nervous when he was called up to take over the Yankees right-field job last June. On his way to his first game at Yankee Stadium, he got lost on the subway. Then he broke his right kneecap when he ran into a golf cart during pregame drills, which knocked him out for two months. He looked more like a veteran the second time around, finishing the season as a regular in left and right field. Manager Joe Torre gave him the starting nod in all four games against the Angels in the American League Division Series.
Strengths: While Rivera doesnt employ a prototypical swinghis front foot bails a la Roberto Clementehe crushes fastballs and manages to cover the outer half of the plate when he keeps his hands back. He has above-average raw power, but his power production has been average at best. Riveras defense may have been the deciding factor in his postseason starts. He has 65 arm strength on the 20-80 scouting scale. He makes good reads off the bat and takes good routes to the ball.
Weaknesses: Not a patient hitter, Rivera could produce more power with improved selectivity. Like many young hitters, he can be susceptible to offspeed stuff away but has shown a knack for making contact. Rivera has a thick lower half and is an average runner as a 24-year-old. As he continues to fill out, his speed will diminish.
The Future: As New York tries to dump Rondell White and Raul Mondesi, Rivera should take over a vacant corner-outfield job in the spring. The question remains whether Rivera will be a long-term answer for the Yankees, who are missing the .300-20-100 seasons Paul ONeill gave them. His chances for playing time could be cut if New York cant get rid of White and Mondesi or signs Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui.
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