With all the hype surrounding the impending arrival of super-prospect Orlando Arcia in the big leagues, another talented Brewers prospect has been quietly improving rapidly, to the point where he just may find himself breaking camp with Milwaukee after all, and perhaps, with Milwaukee likely facing lefty Madison Bumgarner, even in the Opening Day lineup.
Yadiel Rivera, Milwaukee's 23-year-old middle infielder, is third on the team with a 1.125 OPS (min. 10 AB), leads the team in doubles (5) and home runs (2, tied with three others) and has made a significant positive impact in the field almost every time out.
I asked Craig Counsell about Rivera's performance this spring after yesterday's game in which he once again shined, grabbing a double and an RBI at the plate while also turning a pair of double plays and relaying a throw from Eric Young Jr. to catch Austin Jackson trying to stretch a double into a triple. "The thing with Yadiel is he's doing it in all places of the game," Counsell said. "He seems to add something defensively every day, which he did today on the relay throw. You know, that's a run, that's like an RBI really. And then he had the big triple (Rivera advanced to third on the throw to the plate on his double) so he continues to do a good job."
A hopefully unnecessary word of caution here: Spring Training stats do not mean anything. Here's a couple of blind player comparisons:
Player A: .379/.471/.569, 7 XBH, 11:8 K:BB, 5 SB (58 AB)
Player B: .416/.438/.636, 10 XBH, 9:3 K:BB (77 AB)
Player C: .354/.421/.631, 10 XBH, 10:9 K:BB, 1 SB (65 AB)
Player D: .333/.333/.792, 7 XBH, 4:0 K:BB (24 AB)
Player A is Logan Schafer in 2014, Player B is Erick Almonte in 2011, and Player C is Brad Nelson in 2009. Player D is, of course, Rivera so far this spring. Let me say this again so it's very clear: Spring Training stats, in a vacuum, mean nothing.
That said Rivera, who played very well in the Arizona Fall League, has carried over that improved performance to camp this spring. For a guy like Rivera, the bump in production is encouraging: while no one should expect the light-hitting middle infielder to start slugging .792 at the major league level, Spring Training pitching can be roughly compared to the level of competition at Triple-A, where Rivera had an abysmal .569 OPS last season.
Now, there are still some red flags here. RIvera has yet to draw a walk this spring. He doesn't have a stolen base yet this spring either, which seems like it could be a red flag until you realize that seven of his eight hits have been for extra bases. But Rivera's defense is good enough that if he can be close to major league average at the plate, he can be a legitimate starter or at least a very decent bench player. When asked about Rivera's defense behind him, Matt Garza said, "[He's] solid. Defensively solid, he can play multiple positions, he's a great infielder, a great defensive player. You like that, you like seeing that. He makes a lot of double plays look easy."
Cactus League Updates
- Seeing his first game action of the spring, LF Ryan Braun was already in midseason form, going 1-for-1 with a walk, scoring from first on a gapper from Chris Carter (including a pearl-clutching slide into home), and making a running catch in the first inning. "Somehow the game always seems to work out that way, right? The ball finds you," Braun said. "I felt like I was tested in a lot of ways, I feel great so definitely a positive in a lot of ways." Counsell said that Braun would probably have Thursday off and play again Friday. Braun had other ideas: "I told them I'm good. I'm good until April 4, shut it down," He joked. "The walk felt good, so I'm good."
- The Brewers will play the first of three night games this spring tonight in Surprise as they take on the Rangers at 8:05 pm. "It's something different for us, and we're at the point where you're looking forward to something different," Counsell said after yesterday's game. "That's why tomorrow's a good day. The night game is just more like a normal day in the regular season."