Juan Rivera finally got Mike Scioscia to make him a full-time starter in 2009, now that he won’t be fighting for his job for the first time, what can we expect from Juan Rivera in 2010?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo Day

2009 Stats: 572 AB, .287 AVG, 72 R, 25 HR, 88 RBI, 0 SB, .810 OPS

2010 Bill James Projections: 565 AB, .282 AVG, 69 R, 23 HR, 87 RBI, 0 SB, .798 OPS

2010 Chone Projections: 423 AB, .277 AVG, 54 R, 19 HR, 74 RBI, 0 SB, .795 OPS

2010 Marcel Projections: 471 AB, .270 AVG, 61 R, 21 HR, 75 RBI, 2 SB, .772 OPS

2010 ZiPS Projections: 374 AB, .281 AVG, 48 R, 15 HR, 64 RBI, 0 SB, .783 OPS

2010 Monkey Projections*: 525 AB, .295 AVG, 70 R, 22 HR, 80 RBI, 0 SB, .880 OPS

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs.com except the Monkey Projections which are strictly based on my own knowledge, logic and intuition.

2009 Review: Rivera started the season in a platoon with Gary Matthews, but that didn’t last long.  Rivera emerged as one of the more consistent hitters in the Angel line-up combining strong situational hitting with a career-high 25 home runs.  Not a bad return for a guy that the Angels re-signed in the off-season almost as an afterthought.  His strong 2009 campaign has since cemented his status as an important piece of the Angel roster as well as one of the best values in all of baseball.

3 Questions for 2010:

  1. Is he actually a good defender? Even though Rivera seems to be the heir apparent to Garret Anderson’s title as the Angel player who plays like he doesn’t give a crap, especially in the field, he somehow graded out as one of the best left fielders in all of baseball last season with a 16.6 UZR/150.  I never once recall seeing Rivera making anything but the routine play out in left and his fielding metric from previous seasons suggest he is nothing but slightly above average.  The Angel outfield defense is actually a bit of a vulnerability this year, so it would be a big boon to their fortunes if Rivera finds a way to overachieve in the field yet again.
  2. Why does he ground into so many double plays? Rivera seems to be  strong situational hitter with his strong contact rate, but yet he found a way to ground into 19 double plays last year, almost all in high leverage situations (OK, only 3 in high leverage, but it felt like a lot more, though 6 did come in medium leverage).  I like to think that Rivera is a better hitter than that, but at the same time, his ground ball percentages were on par with his career rate, so maybe it was just bad luck or maybe Rivera needs to tweak his approach at the plate with runners on base.
  3. Can he avoid wearing out again? 2009 was the first full season for Rivera since he broke his leg in winter ball and it appeared that he wore out as the season went on.  Normally Rivera is a strong second half player, but after posting OPS numbers over .852 in May, June and July, Rivera finished the season with OPS numbers south of .736 in August, September and October.  I have to believe fatigue played a big role in that since he was also setting a new career-high in at-bats last year.  Mike Scioscia will have to find a way to keep Rivera fresh if he wants him to avoid a similar swoon this year.

2010 Preview: Whenever Rivera gets consistent at-bats, he produces, it is just that simple.  Now without any real potential platoon partner in sight, Rivera can finally relax a bit in a regular job.  That should allow him to put up very similar numbers to what he did last year, though he might not get as many RBI opportunities if he ends up batting sixth in the order most of the year as we all expect.  I also believe that Scioscia will cut back on Rivera’s at-bats a little bit this year in order to find some playing time for Maicer Izturis (with Matsui playing left field).  This will obviously hurt Rivera’s totals a little bit, but it should also keep him fresh enough to not wear down like he did last season, thus helping him keep his batting average high.