Add another warm body to the hoard of right handed batting outfielders – today, Juan Rivera joined the Yankees on a minor league contract, and will compete with Matt Diaz, Russ Canzler, Thomas Neal, Melky Mesa, and Zoilo Almonte for a spot on the bench and DH platoon.
The Bombers are plenty familiar with Rivera, who was a top prospect in the organization right around the turn of the millennium. He only received 280 PAs (91 wRC+) from 2001-2003 before being a key cog in the trade for Javier Vazquez. He eventually caught on with the Angels where he put up a couple of solid offensive seasons. Now, Rivera is 34 and pretty limited with the bat and glove. However, he’s posted some decent numbers vs. lefties and could be an early favorite to win the Spring Training competition with the aforementioned names.
Here’s why the Yankees took a flyer: In the past 3 seasons vs. southpaws (429 PAs), Rivera has shown good pop (.169 ISO, 15 home runs), while hitting .270/.329/.434 (109 wRC+). Nothing eye popping, but not bad either. The downside is that his one dimensional skillset has resulted in being a below average hitter, per wRC+, every year since 2009. Eek.
Despite some success vs. lefties, there’s nothing here really to get excited about. The projection system Marcel isn’t optimistic about Rivera’s 2013 performance, and nor should it be. Using Tom Tango’s instructions for Marcel’s computation, we find that it projects Rivera to hit .253/.310/.391. (.304 wOBA). CAIRO version 0.3, operated at the Replacement Level Yankee Weblog, is pessimistic as well, foreseeing a .251/.307/.399 slash line (.309 wOBA). Yuck.
The projections are obviously underwhelming (as is his recent performance), but then again, this is to be expected from a guy signing a minor league contract. The Yankees’ logic is clear, they hope to find a diamond in the rough, so dumping Rivera into the junk pile can’t hurt. For competitiveness’ sake, let’s hope so.