Yadiel Rivera is an intriguing talent. He's an excellent fielding shortstop. At different points in their minor league careers Rivera and Orlando Arcia received similar defensive grades in terms of fielding ability and arm strength. So you can imagine how tantalizing it was to dream on River if he could ever get his bat going. Unfortunately to date that hasn't really happened. Regardless, I think he's got a pretty good chance of going north with the Brewers as the regular season begins.
The infield regular are likely C Jonathan Lucroy, 1B Chris Carter, 2B Scooter Gennett, 3B Aaron Hill, and SS Jonathan Villar. At this point the only guaranteed bench spot goes to C Martin Maldonado. And regardless of who the individual is, you have to figure at least one spot goes to an outfielder. That leaves three spots left to fill.
One of them could be 2B/3B Colin Walsh. I'm starting to thing another spot might actually go to 1B/3B Will Middlebrooks. The Brewers usually end up giving one or two non-roster invitees a major league job. It's happened in the past with guys like Lyle Overbay and Tom Gorzelanny--was it Gorzelanny...I think it was...well it was someone anyway.
Assuming these guys do all make the roster that gives a back-up option for the outfield, catcher, first base, second base, and third base. The only position that isn't covered would be shortstop. So the fifth and final bench spot would seem to go to a player capable of covering the position. And aside from Orlando Arcia who will open the season in AAA, the only shortstop option is Yadiel Rivera. So by process of elimination we can deduce that he will be a major leaguer on opening day.
We can expect plus defense from him at shortstop--his main position. He has good range and a strong throwing arm. However he doesn't have very good speed. It doesn't hurt him in the field, but he's not a guy that will steal bases. But he's not going to be on the team for his offense anyway. Which is good because he's hit 244/289/349 in the minors.
Even if he never hits better than Jeff Bianchi, I think he'll more than make up for it with his glove. It might not show up in advanced metrics like WAR--I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps we should ignore WAR for bench players for the same reason most ignore WAR for relievers (small sample size). And even though I may seem down on Rivera, I'm really looking forward to watching him back up the Brewers pitchers this year.