Bounce-back: It was a step back for Rivera in 2019, but there’s still a chance he regains true prospect status. (Tiffany Wintz/South Side Hit Pen)
After a college career that spanned three years with different levels (University of Miami, Chipola JC and Div. II University of Tampa), Laz Rivera was selected by the White Sox in the 28th round of the 2017 draft. He was immediately inserted into the AZL lineup, where he slashed .296/.374/.446 in 47 games with 12 doubles, five triples, two homers, 24 RBIs, three stolen bases, eight walks (3.8%) and 26 strikeouts (12.2%).
Rivera enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2018. In his 63 games with Kannapolis, he slashed an impressive .346/.395/.502 with 15 doubles, two triples, six homers, 24 RBIs, seven stolen bases, six walks (2.3%) and 48 strikeouts (18.1%). While not as sensational, Rivera performed quite well for Winston-Salem in 61 games by slashing .280/.325/.458 with 15 doubles, two triples, seven homers, 37 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, seven walks and 44 strikeouts. Overall, Rivera finished 2018 with a terrific slash line of .314/.361/.481.
Baseball America said of him at the time, “He is part of the new breed of infield prospect who hits first and asks questions later, a la Brandon Lowe and Nick Solak with the Rays. He brings above-average bat speed and a short path to the ball, which he used to post excellent numbers at both Class A levels. He’s an aggressive hitter who crushes fastballs but needs to work on not chasing off-speed pitches. He played almost exclusively at shortstop, though his 40-grade arm profiles better at second base.”
Of course, as with nearly every Sox hitter not named Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal or Yermín Mercedes, Rivera struggled big time with Birmingham in 2019. In 121 games totaling 424 at-bats, Rivera slashed just .248/.287/.318 with 22 doubles, one triple, two homers, 39 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 17 walks (3.7%) and 81 strikeouts (17.8%). A former organizational Top 30 prospect, he has fallen off most lists due to his lackluster offensive performance.
As of now, Rivera seems to be destined for a utility infield role going forward. However, barring the Sox signing a minor-league free agent for Triple-A next year, he could be slated for the much more hitting-friendly confines of Charlotte, where he can hopefully reclaim his prospect status.