Cubs: Alfonso Rivas, Nico Hoerner are blue chips off the old block
By Duane Pesice
I’ve long been a backer of Alfonso Rivas – I used to watch him play at the University of Arizona, where he was a blue-chip stock. In addition to his prowess with the bat and the glove, he’s also a good bet for the Anthony Rizzo spot in the bullpen, though he throws harder than the former Cub. He was all over the field in college, though admittedly first base is his best position.
On a recent broadcast, Cubs play-by-play man Boog Sciambi mentioned how Rivas and Nico Hoerner played against each other for a long time in advanced independent leagues like the Cape Cod League, and were already friends, and I can well imagine that it helps during the adjustment period to have such support and understanding. Both are likely to be professionals, barring catastrophic injuries, for a good long time.
Both men are 25 years old (Hoerner turned 25 this Friday) and presumably in the best shape of their lives, with nothing but opportunity in front of them, and so far they’re handling everything extremely well, with Hoerner indeed proving to be a defensive standout at his position, flying in the faces of his many detractors, and with both exhibiting a little bit of power-when-needed, turning on the occasional ill-aimed fastball and depositing it in the expensive seats, and not at the expense of their excellent contact bats.
Hoerner this year has been good for a .271/.293/.396/.689 quad slash, while being bedeviled by the BABIP gods. His 2022 OBP is about .30 less than his career average, and his SLG is about .30 over. I’d guess that at the end of the season, his OBP will fall in the .333-.350 range and the SLG near .400. He’ll probably be in the Gold Glove conversation but won’t win unless the Cubs somehow sneak into contention. He’s been good for 1.0 WAR so far, which is excellent. A full season at his present pace would be good for 5.0 or so WAR, which would be outstanding.
Entering action on Friday night, Rivas has posted a .289/.413/.474/.887 quad slash… spectacular numbers. I pegged him a while ago for .280/.350/.400/.750 given 500 at-bats and I’d argue that this was a conservative estimate, but not extremely so. He’ll probably develop a bit more situational power as he grows older — it’s pretty clear that he spent some time in the weight room this past winter and his position, if indeed he retains it, calls for home run frequency.
With less than half of the total at-bats Hoerner has had, Rivas has been good for 0.4 WAR so far. If his offense continues at this pace or near it, given the same number of at-bats, he’d likely garner sufficient numbers to approach 4.0 WAR for the season. I suspect he’ll pass that as his at-bats will increase as Frank Schwindel is confined to DH duties if he remains with the big club.
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Both are clearly blocks to build on for the young Cubs. harbingers perhaps of a brighter future. Let’s hope so anyway, being Cub fans. Next year will be better.