- Full name René Rivera
- Born 07/31/1983 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico
- Profile Ht.: 5'10" / Wt.: 215 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Papa Juan XXIII
- Debut 09/22/2004
- Drafted in the 2nd round (49th overall) by the Seattle Mariners in 2001 (signed for $688,000).
Organization Prospect Rankings
Rivera was the MVP of the 2001 Excellence Games, an annual showcase for Puerto Rican draft prospects, boosting him into the second round that year. He continues to make a living off his work behind the plate, as managers have rated him his league's best defensive catcher for three years running. He led the Texas League by throwing out 54 percent of basestealers in 2005. Though he has a chunky body, he's agile and has good receiving skills. He spent a month in Seattle last year as a big league backup, and that's his long-term role, especially with Jeff Clement, Kenji Johjima and Rob Johnson in the organization. Rivera hasn't hit enough to project as a regular, though the Mariners note that they've rushed him. He has some raw power, but he owns a long swing, chases too many pitches and struggles against breaking balls. He's also a well-below-average runner. Though Rivera has just 115 at bats above Double-A and needs much more work on his hitting, he and Johjima are the only catchers on the big league roster. Rivera could open 2006 as Johjima's backup in Seattle.
Rivera received a couple of surprise promotions from high Class A at the end of last season. When the Mariners traded Triple-A catcher Pat Borders to the Twins in late August, they replaced Borders with Rivera for the final week of the Pacific Coast League season. Rivera returned to Inland Empire for the California League playoffs, then got summoned to Seattle in September. Rivera already could survive in the big leagues with his defensive prowess. Managers rated him the best defensive catcher in the Cal League, which he led by throwing out 41 percent of basestealers. Though he has a chunky body, he moves well behind the plate and has receiving skills to match his strong, accurate arm. How much Rivera will hit remains in question. His swing is long, he's too aggressive and he's still learning to deal with breaking balls and understand the strike zone. He's still young, though, so if he can make some adjustments he could hit .260 with gap power. He already shows raw power to all fields but hasn't tapped into it yet. He's a well below-average runner, not a shock for a catcher. After his roller-coaster ride to finish 2004, Rivera will catch in Double-A this year.
With Ryan Christianson continually snakebitten by injuries, Rivera has supplanted him as the organization's top catching prospect. The Mariners believe their 2003 Wisconsin team MVP can give them what they hoped for from Christianson: strong catch-and-throw skills and some pop in his bat. Rivera's defense is ahead of his offense at this point. Managers rated him the best defensive catcher in the Midwest League after he threw out 40 percent of basestealers. He has a strong arm with a quick release, and he enjoys running a pitching staff. As Rivera gets stronger and gets a better grasp of the strike zone, he'll have 15-20 home run power. Right now he's a free swinger who needs a more consistent approach. His stroke is sound, and he's starting to understand which pitches he can and can't hit. As with most catchers, he doesn't have much speed. Rivera will move up to high Class A for 2004.
If Ryan Christianson can't become the Mariners' catcher of the future, they have hopes that Rivera can. Like Christianson, he has yet to tear up minor league pitching, though Rivera was named to the Northwest League's postseason all-star team in 2002. He got himself selected in the second round the year before with an impressive power display in a Puerto Rican predraft showcase. Rivera is still raw at the plate and needs to tighten his strike zone in order to be more productive. His catch-and-throw skills are more advanced than his bat at this point. Rivera moves well behind the plate, and his strong arm allowed him to lead the NWL in throwing out 38 percent of basestealers. Seattle also has been impressed at how quickly he has picked up English. Rivera will move to full-season ball for the first time in 2003.
Rivera boosted his stock immensely at a predraft showcase for Puerto Rican prospects last May. Scouts had questioned his bat before he put on a power display, which caused the Mariners to take him with a second-round pick they had gotten from the Rangers as compensation for Alex Rodriguez. Rivera struggled when he was initially sent to the Northwest League, then hit much better once he was demoted to the Rookie-level Arizona League. He'll have to make major improvements to his plate discipline, however. Built along the lines of Pudge Rodriguez, Rivera always has impressed scouts with his solid catch-and-throw skills. He threw out 39 percent of basestealers in his pro debut, showing nimble feet, a quick release and a strong arm. Like most of Seattle's early-round picks from the 2001 draft, he's not quite ready for full-season ball yet.
Minor League Top Prospects
Seattle's second-round pick in June, Rivera started his career in the short-season Northwest League. He was sent down after batting .089. A short, stocky catcher in the mold of fellow Puerto Rican Ivan Rodriguez, Rivera picked up the pace considerably in the Arizona League--both with the bat and glove. "He has quick feet, receives the ball well, takes care of the running game and has good instincts," Munoz said. "To me, he was the best overall catcher in this league because he can hit."
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Defensive Catcher in the Seattle Mariners in 2006
- Rated Best Defensive Catcher in the Texas League in 2005
- Rated Best Defensive Catcher in the Seattle Mariners in 2005
- Rated Best Defensive Catcher in the California League in 2004