2016 PCL Batting Champion & Bronx Born Mets Infielder: T.J. Rivera (2011-2017)
Along with Johnny Monell, he was one of two Mets on the 2016 roster who were born in the Bronx, Ed Kranepool must be proud!
The six foot one infielder, attended Lehman High School in the Bronx, as a freshman just after the 2000 Subway World Series. His father was a Mets fan as was many of his friends, unfortunately T.J. rooted for the A.L. New York team. He eventually smartened up when he signed with the New York Mets.
Many of his coaches with the New York Nine had ties in Alabama Junior College & their coach, former Met Mackey Sasser. Rivera attended junior college & then played for the Troy University Trojans in college. It was at Troy University where he met his future wife.
In 2011 he was an undrafted free agent & got a chance with the New York Mets organization. He was with the Kingsport Mets & Brooklyn Cyclones for 15 games that year. He spent the next two years at A ball St. Lucie where he hit .306 (64 games in 2012) & then .289 (125 games in 2013).
The middle infielder hits well for average & puts the ball in play rather than hit for power. He is a top of the line up kind of batter although he lacks discipline at the plate. His infield versatility has him play at second base, short stop & third base. 2014 had him at St. Lucie again then a promotion to AA Binghamton where he combined to bat .349 helping lead the team to the Atlantic Championship.
In 2015 he hit .341 at Binghamton in 56 games, getting promoted to his highest career level at AAA Las Vegas where he batted .306 in 54 games for the 51s.
At age 27 his average cant be ignored, a career .318 hitter, but his lack of power & discipline have held him back. Other middle infielders in the organization such as Matt Reynolds & Gavin Cecchini have moved up quicker at younger ages.
In February of 2016 he was invited to Spring Training as a non roster invitee. He got the start at third base in the Mets second Spring Training game, the first to be televised. In the 5th inning, he drove in the Mets run with a single to right field. He did not make the squad going North, and started the year at AAA Las Vegas.
Quotes: TJ Rivera- "I just try to come to the field every day and put some work in, try to find a way to get better in any way possible -- not just hitting, It's been fun. It's been a blessing. Hopefully I can get that breakthrough this year. I've just got to keep working and wait for my opportunity."
He had a great start to the season, winning the Pacific Coast Leagues Player of the month Award, batting .373 with 5 HRs. He tore up the league all year, finishing up winning the PCL Batting Title, batting .349 with 11 HRs & 90 RBIs. Three Las Vegas 51's, of the AAA Mets minor leaguers, finished in the top three in the PCL's batting race.
On August 10th he was brought up to the Mets big league club, and got a hit that night while starting at third base. He pinch hit the next night & came through with another hit. He began to see regular action, playing at second base & third base.
On August 14th he had two hits with two RBIs in the Mets 5-1 win over the San Diego Padres at Citi Field. Two nights later on August 16th, he had his first career four hit night, getting his average up to .363.
On September 14th, he had his biggest day of his baseball career. In an important game in the heat of a pennant race against the rival Washington Nationals in D.C., he had a three hit night while driving in three runs, including top of the 10th inning solo blast that was not only his first MLB HR, but also the game winner.
The HR came off Nats closer; Mark Melancon. Quite a night for the young man, who also helped end the 9th with a double play, after the Nats had tied the game. The Mets went on to a huge 4-3 victory.
He would drive in runs in six of his next eight games. On September 18th his HR against the Minnesota Twins ended up being the deciding run in the 3-2 Mets win. He ended the year hitting safely in 13 of 15 games driving in runs in the last two games.
He ended 2016 batting .333 with 3 HRs 16 RBIs & a .345 on base %.
2016 NL Wild Card Game: Rivera got one of the Mets four hits in the Wild Card game against Madison Bumgarner.
In 2017 Rivera was batting .290 with 5 HRs 13 doubles & 27 RBIs into mid July. Back on May 7th, his 7th inning double tied the game against the Miami Marlins the Mets went on to win 8-7. He would produce ten RBIs in May & again two months later. He closed out June with an 11 game hit streak into July.
He started out July with back to back HR games against the Phillies. On July 21st his two run single helped the Mets to a 7-5 win over the Oakland Athletics. At the end of July he went on the DL & it was determined he needed Tommy John surgery, shutting him down into 2018. That summer he suffered more set backs & did not play all season.