Cubs: Making the case for Alfonso Rivas grabbing a roster spot

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Is it just me or are not a lot of people talking about Alfonso Rivas? With the whirlwind of roster moves, trades and free agent signings we’ve bore witness to over the course of the last eight-plus months, I wouldn’t hold it against you if you haven’t done a deep dive into some of the newer faces on the Cubs.

One of the guys you may still not be too familiar with is left-handed batting Alfonso Rivas. This guy has pretty much been on a tear his entire career. Drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 draft by the Oakland Athletics, Rivas was traded to Chicago for Tony Kemp in 2020. Given the middle infield depth the Cubs have assembled of late, this trade may wind up working out in favor of the North Siders in a big way.

With no minor league season in 2020 due to the pandemic, Rivas began his tenure with the Chicago Cubs organization in Triple-A at the start of the 2021 season. We’re talking about a guy who slashed .323/.417/.470 in the Pac-12 with Arizona during his college years and has since put up a .288/.393/.411 line in the minors since. Most recently, in 2021 he batted .284/.405/.411 with four home runs and 32 RBI in 237 plate appearances with the Iowa Cubs last season and earned his call-up to the Show in late August.

Rivas’ potential has only grown, his ceiling has elevated and his career looks more and more promising as time goes on. For the 18 games he appeared in with the Cubs last year, he impressed with a slash of .318/.388/.409 in 44 ABs. A small sample size, sure, but given his success and both college and the minor league levels, it’s becoming apparent that this guy can hit.

He registered a 95 wRC+ last season against southpaws (in just 12 at-bats) but a more than intriguing 130 wRC+ against right-handers. Personally, I find it rather absurd that Rivas’ ZiPS project him playing 100 games with a .244/.323/.341 slash. I just don’t see things playing that way based on the career .306/.404/.436 slash he has between college, across all league levels and now a small sample in MLB. Seems a little excessive that he would drop 62 batting average points after proving year after year that he can adjust as he faces more skilled pitchers at higher levels of play.

Like several 2021 Cubs rookies, in this case at first base, he has been overshadowed by the shockwave- inducing trade of Anthony Rizzo. Between that franchise-altering move and the sudden emergence of Frank Schwindel, Rivas’ success has, thus far, been overlooked. However, with speculation recently that the Cubs were connected to Padres’ first baseman Eric Hosmer in a salary dump, it’s worth wondering what role Rivas will wind up having on the team.

Next. Are the Yankees a fit in a potential Willson Contreras trade?. dark

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In my mind, there’s no reason why Rivas shouldn’t be on the Opening Day roster next month. For a team looking to find its true identity in 2022, his potential has earned him a shot as regular fixture in the team’s positional rotation. His high contact lefty bat is essential given the make-up of this roster and, with low-cost, long-term control, this is a guy who deserves a look sooner rather than later.