Erik Rivera threw 11 innings at instructional league, giving the Angels their first live look at the 19-year-old lefthander on a mound since they drafted him in the fourth round out of Puerto Rico in 2019.
The sample size was small. The intrigue surrounding Rivera was not.
“Some people throw pretty, and he throws pretty,” Angels minor league pitching coordinator Buddy Carlyle said. “It’s a nice delivery, especially for a guy who hasn’t had a ton of reps. The more he gets, the better off he’ll be. It’s developing a feel for how to pitch.”
Rivera, a product of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, was announced as a two-way player when he signed for $597,500, and he continued to take at-bats last fall after hitting .208 with four doubles in 72 at-bats in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2019. But he appears to have more upside as a pitcher.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Rivera has a smooth, athletic delivery and a slight three-quarters arm slot that remind some of Dodgers lefthander Julio Urias. He induces plenty of swing and miss with a fastball that averages 92 mph and has touched 96 with late life.
His 77 mph curveball resembles a slider, with a little more sweep than depth, and he has shown improvement on an 83 mph changeup that has some fade.
“The guys who get in-zone swing-and-miss are pretty easy to dream on,” Carlyle said. “Their velo could be 91 (mph), 93-94, but for some reason they still get swings and misses in the zone, and the hitters don’t look comfortable swinging at it.”
At the plate, Rivera has plenty of raw power but has struggled to make consistent contact. On the mound, he projects as a No. 4 type starter or possibly a swingman.
He will likely open 2021 back in the AZL but should reach Low-A or even High-A by summer’s end. It’s too early to tell whether he will remain a two-way player or migrate to a full-time pitching or hitting role.