One of the more underrated prospects in the Royals system, Emmanuel Rivera started out the 2017 campaign as a 20-year old in the South Atlantic League (Low-A).
Rivera just finished his 3rd professional season with the Lexington Legends, and finally found some success hitting professional pitching. Drafted in the 19th round out of Puerto Rico back in 2015, Rivera struggled mightily in his first two seasons with the Royals.
In 2015, as an 18-year old, Rivera was assigned to the Arizona Summer League where he slashed .174/.317/.217/.534 with 0 HRs. That is a really weird slash line for any hitter. Usually, the guys who hit .174 and get on base a lot also hit for some serious pop. But Rivera, although he commanded the zone well, walking 23 times in 38 games, appeared to be lost at the plate.
The Royals felt comfortable enough with Rivera however to move him to Burlington in 2016, where he hit .249 with 2 HRs. A little bit better, but still disappointing for a kid trying to make a name for himself as a prospect.
I have no idea what got into Emmanuel Rivera during the last offseason, but what ever he did, he needs to keep doing it. Rivera burst onto the prospect scene in 2017 by winning a batting title in the South Atlantic League, slashing .310/.364/.468/.832 with a career high 12 HRs and 27 doubles. Rivera added 8 stolen bases and 5 triples to boot. His OPS was good enough for 3rd in the SAL, suggesting that Rivera wasn’t just hitting an empty .310 either.
I can’t tell you where Rivera is going to wind up on our Top 100 Prospects list that is coming out soon, but I can tell you that he is going to find himself much higher than on any prospect list we’ve made before.
When we released our Top 30 Prospects list back in July, Rivera was not only not in the top 30, he wasn’t even named in the “Honorable Mention” section. Everything changes when you hit .310 with 12 HRs and win a batting title as a 20/21-year old.
From everything I’ve seen, Rivera is a pretty good athlete who can play a solid enough third base, so I don’t expect him to be forced to move to DH or anything anytime soon. The Royals need a couple of guys like Rivera to step up and become significant prospects while their system looks a little barren, and Rivera answered the call. I expect Rivera to start the season with the High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks in 2018, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he earned a promotion to AA Northwest Arkansas before the season ends if he continues to hit like he did in 2017.
Look for Rivera to really shake things up in the prospect rankings this offseason.
Photo Credits: Mary Lay