Profile: Juan RiveraFirst, a quick link. Yesterday, MLB featured Shawn Norris, who plays third base and will start the season either at AA Harrisburg or AAA New Orleans.
Speaking of third basemen, ESPN has Batista as #40 in their list of top 50 free agents, and claim that he "quietly put together a great offensive season". How could someone with a .272 on-base percentage ever be described that way and a VORP right at 0 ever be described that way? The guy was no better than a bench player last season, which was slightly better than his 2003 VORP of -0.6, but much worse than his PECOTA projected 14.1. While he'll only be 31 going into next year, I can't see the value.
Now, on to Juan Rivera, who we acquired from the Yankees last offseason. Juan is a right hander who plays both corners comfortably, though we had him primarily in RF last year. He'll be 27 by the all-star break, and 2004 was his first full year in the major leagues. He doesn't become a free agent until 2008.
Having watched him play a fair bit with New York, I can say that he's got a good arm, good enough to be a legitimate right fielder. But, it's not wildly above average, nor does he have better than average range.
In the batters box, though, Juan had a good year last year, hitting .307/.364/.465 in 425 plate appearances. He was platooned for part of the year, but had a good enough season that he ended up with the bulk of the time in RF.
Park adjusted, his numbers go down, but it was still a solid season, as Juan posted the third highest VORP in the offense-- his 22.3 was behind Wilkerson's 36.1 and Vidro's 28.7. That's not bad, particularly considering his PECOTA projection was .266/.304/.468. Though PECOTA had him doing much better in PA/HR (25.9 vs. 35.4), he more or less met the projected SLG by hitting a lot of doubles. He also walked every 12.5 PAs, quite a bit better than the projected 14, which is okay, but not overly impressive.
The trend on Rivera has been moving in the right direction, and he's at about to reach the age where he's likely to peak. He could easily match or exceed his line from last year. I do think that RFK is going to end up a pitcher's park, but not as bad of one as the Olympic Stadium / Bithorn one was, so I'm hopeful that he'll end up a .300 hitter.
The question is where's he going to play? I've seen one blog express disgust at going after Jose Guillen, who is much more expensive than Rivera, and has a similar (but better) offensive line, as if the two can't coexist because they're both primarily RFs. Sure, Wilkerson is likely to be back in left, but I think Rivera would be fine as a center fielder, and I suspect that's what will end up happening. I expect he'll have below average range, but an above average arm for the position. Overall, he'll be a tremendous value there.