On the last day of the 2016 Winter Meetings, the Atlanta Braves continued their pursuit of low-cost/high-reward players by selecting RHP Armando Rivero from the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft. The Braves made room for the move by releasing RHP Williams Perez. Perez had struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness, and was not considered a particularly high ranking prospect.
The #Braves selected RHP Armando Rivero in today's Rule 5 Draft.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) December 8, 2016
Armando Rivero is a 28-year old, 6’4″, hard throwing reliever who began his career in the Cuban Serie Nacional at age 18. After four seasons in Cuba, Rivero signed with the Cubs in March of 2013, for a reported bonus of $3.1 Million. The Cubs assigned Rivero to their Kane County affiliate in A ball, where he struggled to a 5.40 ERA in his first exposure to stateside batters. However, he struck out 28 batters in only 18 innings and flashed some talent that led the Cubs to keep promoting him. Over a total of four minor league seasons at various stops, Rivero has compiled a 12-7 record, 14 saves, and a 2.70 ERA in 160 appearances. Rivero has struck out 303 batters in 220 IP (12.4 K/9), and has posted a 1.209 WHIP. His peripherals suggest he’s been an effective pitcher as well, with a FIP of roughly 3.03, and a DRA under 3.00 in six of seven (and under 2.00 in four) minor league seasons.
Rivero’s mid-90s fastball plays very well, while his slider and change are still works in progress. Both secondary pitches are efficient when properly executed, but his execution has been inconsistent at times, leading to somewhat high BB rates. His fastball has a future value of 65, per Fangraphs, with his slider falling in just behind with a 55 FV. The changeup trails, with a FV estimated at 45.
To paraphrase Liam Neeson, Rivero has a particular set of skills. A set of skills developed over a long career. Skills that make him a nightmare for batters. Rivero in 2016 posted a strikeout rate of 37.4% at AAA Iowa. By comparison, only five relievers in MLB posted similar rates, with Craig Kimbrel being the most comparable at 37.7%. This isn’t to suggest Rivero will be comparable to Kimbrel; he won’t. But it gives an idea as to the style of pitcher that is Rivero. He’s a strikeout machine, which can get confusing, considering the Atlanta Braves just signed “The Strikeout Factory”, Jacob Lindgren.
While his strikeout skills profile as the type of reliever the Braves seem to be targeting in their rebuild, Rivero also suffers from the walk problems that seem to plague pitchers at all levels of the Atlanta Braves organization. He owns a career BB Rate of around 11% (4.38 BB/9 rate) in the minors, which would put him in the bad Mark Wohlers/Mitch Williams/Craig Kimbrel category.
The Atlanta Braves selected Rivero knowing he would have to remain on the 25-man active roster all year. Rivero will replace one of the arms in the bullpen, and should be a part of what is shaping up to be an effective bullpen for the Atlanta Braves. His high strikeout rate will play well in late-inning and medium to high leverage situations.