Juan Rivera came to the Dodgers last year like so many others in recent seasons, off the baseball scrap heap. Rivera was designated for assignment on July 4 by the Toronto Blue Jays after hitting .243/.305/.360 with six home runs in 70 games, and the Dodgers scooped him up eight days later, responsible for only the pro-rated share of the minimum salary for the second half of the season.
Rivera hit the first pitch he saw as a Dodger for a home run, on July 15 against Arizona, and in many ways is a lot like the last man to hit a home run in his first at-bat as a Dodger, Ronnie Belliard. In September 2009, Belliard caught fire and supplanted an All-Star and Gold Glove winner at second base in Orlando Hudson. Then the Dodgers re-signed Belliard for another season which was positively Marlonian and Gibbonsesque in its putridity, as Belliard hit just .216/.295/.327.
The Dodgers hope Rivera can do more of what he did last year, and bet $4.5 million that he would.
Rivera was a huge help to the Dodgers last season. He drove in 46 runs in 62 games and hit .274/.333/.406 with 12 doubles and five home runs as a Dodger. That batting line isn't anything special for a corner outfielder or first baseman, but the Dodgers needed a warm body of some sort to fill the gaping voids they had last season.
In the 92 games before the All-Star break Dodgers first basemen hit .263/.308/.332 with four home runs and their left fielders hit .231/.305/.313 with two home runs. This was Lakers point guard level bad, and Rivera was the Dodgers' Ramon Sessions.
Rivera hit .344/.405/.484 with runners in scoring position for the Dodgers last year, well above his .297/.359/.465 line with RISP. Rivera with the Dodgers came to bat 22 times with a runner on third and less than two outs. He got that runner home 18 times, an absurd 81.8%, well above his career mark of 58.9%.
Can Rivera keep up that pace in 2012? I remain skeptical.
Rivera is the only player in Olympic Stadium history to hit two home runs in one inning, hitting a two-run home run and a grand slam for the Montreal Expos against Arnie Muñoz and the Chicago White Sox in the second inning on June 19, 2004.
Rivera led National League outfielders with 14 assists in 2004 (tied with Richard Hidalgo) and led American League outfielders with 13 assists in 2006.
Rivera signed a one-year contract worth a guaranteed $4.5 million on November 3, 2011 that will pay him $4 million in 2012 with a club option for $4 million more in 2013, or a $500,000 buyout. Rivera can earn up to $500,000 annually in bonuses for amassing between 400 and 600 plate appearances.
|2012 Projections - Age 33 Season|
Rivera told Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times that he wants to start at least 140 games this season, but considering that he has only started 100 games in the field three times in his career, maxing out at 125 starts in 2009, I don't see that happening. Don Mattingly has said this spring that Rivera will get his rest, at least once or twice a week off. I think Rivera starts 89 games and hits .264/.319/.420 with 10 home runs.
What is your guess for Rivera in 2012? Be sure to guess BA/OBP/SLG, and anything else you wish to guess.