"Couple years from now Felipe Rivero could be very good. He's flashing potential with secondaries and living 92-93 but command is crude."---Scout.com's Frankie Piliere via Twitter last night from the MLB Futures Game.
The above quote pretty much sums up what Felipe Rivero showed the baseball world last night during the fourth inning of the 2012 MLB Futures Game. The lefty who has been brilliant this year for the Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods walked three hitters and allowed two runs (one unearned) during his inning of work, but also showed the baseball world the potential that rests in his left arm.
The 21-year-old Venezuelan who has a 2.35 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) for Bowling Green and has allowed just four home runs and 21 walks in his 97.1 innings, appeared a little nervous out of the gate. After a poor cut-off throw from right field on a double off the wall by Reds prospect Tommy Joseph allowed a unearned run to score, Rivero seemed to go from jittery to downright irritated.
Maybe it was the bright lights and big stage, but Rivero was a very different pitcher last night in Kansas City than he normally has been this year for Bowling Green. We were seeing a pitcher last night that was not his usual self on the mound.
Consistently throwing his fastball at 92-93 mph, Rivero was missing the zone badly down or away and although he got some swings-and-misses from his plus curve ball and developing changeup, he was not commanding them well last night either.
Rivero has been a pitcher that has shown great control in his young career and his three walks last night were atypical of what he has shown on the mound this season. He started the year by not allowing an earned run in his first 21.1 innings and walking only one hitter in his first three starts.
For the season, Rivero has walked three batters or more just three times in his 17 appearances and at rookie level Princeton last year he walked just 13 hitters in 60.1 innings. In his four minor league seasons (two with the VSL Rays) he has a career 2.2 BB/9.
But like many young pitchers, Rivero has shown times when he seems to lose it on the hill. In spring training this year, I saw him have an inning very similar to the one he had Sunday night. However, over the course of a game and a season, he has been a pitcher that is usually able to regain his release point and very rarely has outings like the one he had last night.
Going forward I would expect to see Rivero be one of the more exciting pitching prospects in the Rays system and if he can establish his fastball command (unlike he was able to do last night) then his secondary offerings could become devastating to hitters from both sides of the plate.
There is still a ton of projectability with Rivero as well. At 151 lbs, he is already living in the low-90's and as he continues to grow and fill out, it isn't hard to see him gaining some additional velocity on his fastball.
To the uninitiated or casual fan, Rivero's performance last night at Kauffman Stadium may have seem to indicate a pitcher with a horrendous feel for his arsenal. In reality though, his inning of work was not reflective of the pitcher he has been in his young career. Also, to be fair, Rivero was in rookie ball last year and has a mere 16 starts of full-season-ball experience and was pitching on the biggest stage of his life to the best AA and AAA hitters in the game.
Nobody is crowning him as the next big Rays pitching prospect just yet, but as Piliere said, the potential is there for Rivero to be a very good pitcher down the road.
John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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