Can local product Alfonso Rivas pay dividends for Padres in 2023?

Credit; AP Photo

Credit: USA Today Sports

Alfonso Rivas could benefit from increased playing time with the San Diego Padres in 2023. 

The Padres are on the verge of something special.

For the first time ever, the San Diego Padres built a roster of competitive players that should be relevant for years to come. There is a future in San Diego, and it is an exciting time to be a Padre fan right now. For most, this feeling is surreal.

Overall, the team is constructed well, but there are some opportunities for players to earn playing time in the coming season. The offense, in particular, may have several different looks to it. The first base, designated hitter, and second base positions are up in the air. There are also opportunities in the outfield for the first few weeks of the season until Fernando Tatis Jr. returns in late April.

Currently, the Padres have Matt Carpenter and Jake Cronenworth penciled in to play first base for the team to begin the season. Both are left-handed hitters, but another lefty could factor in the equation when it is all said and done.

The Cubs released Alfonso Rivas in the early part of the year (January 5), and the Padres wasted no time signing the 26-year-0ld first baseman.

The left-handed hitter and thrower can play corner outfield as well and is regarded as a plus defender at first base. Before reviewing the numbers of Rivas and how he fits, let’s learn a little about the former fourth-round pick out of the University of Arizona in 2018.

In September of 1996, the Rivas family was driving on the 805 freeway in the South Bay section of San Diego County. The young family is on the way to visit friends in San Diego from their home in Tijuana. Sandra Rivas was nine months pregnant and driven by her husband, Alfonso Rivas Jr.

With little to no warning, she went into labor, and Alfonso Rivas III was born along the side of the 805 freeway.

Rivas was born healthy with no complications, even though a trip to a local hospital resulted in the newborn being dropped. As Rivas’ mother tells it, the nurse did not realize Sandra’s umbilical cord was still attached when she immediately arrived at the hospital, and the baby slipped out of her arms. No harm to the infant, though it made for an exciting beginning to his life.

Credit: USA Today Sports

Rivas spent ten years in Tijuana living with his family before they moved to Chula Vista. The language barrier was tough for Rivas at first, but he always had sports. The youngster excelled in basketball and baseball, but school was an issue.“Academically, I went down the drain,” Rivas told the AZ central while at school in Arizona. “I struggled a lot. But I figured baseball could be my way out. Baseball was something I was relying on.”

It did not take long for Rivas to stand out on the baseball diamond as he was selected to play travel ball in the area.

From there, Rivas earned a trip to the north to play for La Jolla Country Day High School. The academics in the prestigious high school was challenging, but he prevailed and was awarded a scholarship to the University of Arizona. The Mexican-American ballplayer is proud of his heritage. His parents are Mexican, and he has fond memories of his time in Tijuana with his family.

For the Padres, the chance to bring in a local product is great. Growing the fanbase in Mexico is a goal for the franchise, and players like Rivas and Tijauan-born pitching prospect Victor Lizarraga will do that for the Padres.

Rivas was signed to a minor league contract in January and must battle to make it onto the Padres’ 40-man roster. If he can, the Padres hold two option years on the left-handed hitter.

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He could move up and down between the majors and Triple-A as needed, simply providing depth for the Padres. That may be the plan at the moment, but Rivas must be productive this spring for the Padres to keep him in the mix.

The defense will not be an issue for the left-handed thrower. Even in the outfield, he is described as above average with the glove. With the bat, his walk rate is excellent (10 percent last year), but he also struck out at a 30 percent clip in 2022. That will not play. Especially at a premium offensive position like first base. Rivas has a smooth left-handed swing but generates little to no power presently. It is not clear if he will ever drive the ball effectively.

Rivas recorded a .628 OPS last season for the Cubs in 251 at-bats. His season ended early with a finger injury. The reviews were mixed, but the Cubs choose to move on from the young player.

The left-handed hitter may be serviceable if the Padres can get some offensive pop from the 26-year-old. At the moment, his real value is as a depth piece for the team. Alfonso Rivas will be given a chance to make a mark with his hometown team. But it will be on him to capitalize on it and make something out of his career.

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