Summary: Everyone that follows prospects has an idea prospect they like to target in drafts and international signings. Some go for youth and upside, some chase a higher floor and more certainty. Some prefer to scour the international market and some prefer the draft. Some fans prefer players that are in AA or AAA and ready to contribute immediately. Some like to dream on prospects that are in rookie ball. The trick of many teams is to find a balance.
From a very personal standpoint, I’m a big fan of drafting upside prep athletes stateside, and projectable pitchers internationally. For me, the Angels selection of Jerryell Rivera in the 11th round of this past draft was a move of brilliance and fits with what I would look to do if drafting. Rivera was one of the bright spots available in the draft from Puerto Rico this past season.
Watching Rivera pitch, I can envision Cole Hamels down the road. Tall, strong, left handed, mid-90’s fastball and front of the rotation starter. You don’t even need to squint to see that. At age 18, Rivera is already tall, lean, broad shouldered and has a very comfortable arm slot. While his fastball currently hangs 89-90, it comes from a very easy arm angle. With more effort he’s been clocked at 92-93. While his early motion is stiff, the act of throwing the baseball itself is very natural looking. This is the lowest impact left-handed delivery I’ve seen since Andrew Heaney. Rivera just looks like he’s playing catch. For all you’d know regarding the delivery, he could be throwing BP.
But as Rivera grows and becomes more comfortable with he pre-throwing motion, a higher effort delivery and physical progression could have him throwing an easy 95. But the big thing with Jerryell will be the development of his off-speed pitches. His curveball has a little late break to it, but he doesn’t seem to be able to command it, and the change up has a nice speed differential and late fade to it, but he looks quite unsure throwing it. But being able to work with professional coaches and being on a training regimen could have Rivera snapping off breaking balls and change ups to his hearts desire.
In a word, Rivera is the type of prospect you draft and dream on.
And this is all scouting, we haven’t even touched on the fact that Rivera was likely the best pitcher for the Angels Arizona Rookie League squad this year. They limited his innings, but Rivera showed not only the ability to miss bats, but throw strikes, which is huge for a first taste of professional ball.