- Full name Felipe Javier Vázquez
- Born 07/05/1991 in San Felipe, Venezuela
- Profile Ht.: 6'2" / Wt.: 225 / Bats: L / Throws: L
- Debut 04/17/2015
Organization Prospect Rankings
Tampa Bay traded Rivero, along with Jose Lobaton and Drew Vettleson, to the Nationals for Nate Karns in February 2014. His first season in the organization was marred by injury, as he missed seven weeks in the middle of the summer with an elbow strain, but he bounced back in the Arizona Fall League, where he focused on staying closed in his delivery and improving his alignment. Rivero has a loose, quick arm, but his body awareness is still evolving, and he needs to repeat his mechanics in order to improve his command. His best pitch is a lively fastball that sits at 90-94 mph and touches 97. His breaking ball is a power slurve that is too often below-average. His remedial changeup has a tendency to get too hard, and improving it will be a point of emphasis. Rivero's command and mechanical inconsistency will likely push him to the bullpen, but his power stuff from the left side still makes him intriguing, and the Nationals aren't giving up on his chances to start. He figures to get a shot in Triple-A at some point in 2015.
A Futures Game participant in 2012, Rivero has one of the liveliest arms in the organization and is making strides against higher levels of competition as his body matures. He concluded the 2013 season on a strong note in the high Class A Florida State League by allowing a combined five earned runs over his last six starts. Rivero works off a 91-94 mph fastball with late, tailing movement that generates a healthy percentage of groundball outs. He also uses a curveball that has a hard, vertical drop and shows good feel for a changeup that he unleashes with the same arm speed as his fastball. Considered small when he signed with the Rays out of Venezuela, Rivero has grown two inches over the past five years and developed a stronger and thicker lower half that he employs in his delivery. He throws the ball from an upright delivery with a three-quarters arm slot that helps him keep pitches down in the zone. Control and endurance are the keys to his future. He tends to lose velocity over the course of his starts and could end up in the bullpen if he fails to improve in that area. Either way, the Rays are looking forward to seeing how he competes as a 22-year-old at Double-A Montgomery in 2014.
Rivero received significant attention for the first time in his career last year when he was selected to the Futures Game. He earned the spot with a strong start at Bowling Green, where he didn't allow an earned run while striking out 20 batters in his first 22 innings. Tampa Bay took note of his overall progress and added him to its 40-man roster in November. Rivero's fastball sat around 90 mph when he broke into pro ball in 2009, but it now resides at 92-93 and tops out at 95 with good run and decent sink. His quick arm also generates a three-quarters breaking ball that can be a swing-and-miss pitch at times. He's not afraid to throw his changeup, which can become an average offering, and he does a nice job of mixing his pitches. One scout said Rivero is reminiscent of Enny Romero with less command. Rivero has no problem throwing strikes but gets in trouble when he leaves his pitches up in the zone, which happens too regularly. A projected No. 3 or 4 starter who could become a reliever if organization needs dictate it, he'll advance to high Class A this year.
Rivero is the latest strong-armed lefthander to come through Princeton, following the path blazed by Matt Moore (2008) and Enny Romero (2010). Rivero made his U.S. debut there last year, placing eighth in the Appalachian League by averaging 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings. A quality athlete with a quick arm, he throws his fastball at 93-94 mph, which is 3-4 mph higher than when he broke into pro ball in 2009. He also has a plus curveball with late, sharp break and an average changeup that improved over the course of the 2011 season. Romero displayed advanced feel for pitching at Princeton, mixing his pitches effectively without depending too much on any particular offering. He gets into trouble when he leaves his pitches up in the zone and gave up seven homers in 14 outings last year, including one in each of his first four appearances. He improved his command as the season progressed, doing a better job of pounding the bottom of the zone in the second half. Rivero's spring-training performance will determine whether he begins 2012 at Bowling Green or Hudson Valley.
Minor League Top Prospects
In his U.S. debut, Rivero ranked eighth among Appy Leaguers with 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings and joined a distinguished group of former Princeton lefties. Matt Moore led the 2008 Appy League with 12.8 whiffs per nine, while Enny Romero finished third last year at 9.4. Moore and Romero finished second and sixth, respectively, in the minors this season. As a tribute to his athleticism and quick arm, Rivero's fastball velocity increased to 93-94 mph this season, up three to four ticks from last year. He locates the ball down in the zone and shows a feel for when to deploy his plus curveball and fringe-average changeup. In a worst-case scenario, he could have a future in relief if he commands his fastball and breaking ball.