The change-up specialist

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There are going to be quite a few pitchers vying to make the Brewers’ roster out of Spring Training this year. The only pitchers who will probably have a chance are a select few relief pitchers who will hopefully shore up a bullpen that this offseason wasn’t very kind to, aside from Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford returning as a lights-out late inning combo. This is because the rotation is set with five proven starters- Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, and Chris Narveson.

Not many people- even some of the most die-hard Brewers fans- realize this, but the Brewers do have some very nice starting pitching prospects who aren’t a long ways away from reaching the Majors. One of those pitchers is long-time prospect Amaury Rivas, who has been waiting for his chance to play for the Brewers.

Rivas is a 6′ 2”, 217 pound right-handed pitcher. He was born on December 2oth, 1985, in the city of Las Matas de Santa Cruz in the Dominican Republic. He was drafted by the Brewers back in 2005 (at age 19), and has been pitching in the Brewers’ system ever since, now with six years of Minor League service time under his belt.

That’s a little of his personal background, but now let’s get into the numbers. Rivas has had somewhat of a strange career in the Minors. He struggled a bit early on in his career, but smoothed out and had ERAs mostly in the 3.00’s. His best year so far came while pitching for Brevard Country, when he went 13-7 with a 2.98 ERA. Rivas was also decent during his only year at Double-A Huntsville, going 11-6 with a 3.37 ERA.

But, last year was a bit of a hiccup for him. It was his first year at Triple-A Nashville, and he went just 7-12 with a 4.72 ERA. I guess I wouldn’t worry about it too much right now, because pitchers can take time adjust when promoted to the next level. The Triple-A level also tends to have more players who already have Major League experience, and those players feast off of pitchers who have only faced Minor League hitters for the most part. But, 4.72 is still a bit high, so hopefully it drops in 2012.

Prior to the 2011 season, Rivas was considered to be Major League ready. His 2011 season may have put a damper on that, but you can’t always judge a pitcher by his Minor League numbers, because they could be completely different in the Majors.

Now onto Rivas’ arsenal of pitches, which is what makes him such a highly-touted prospect. His fastball velocity has increased over the years, and it’s now in the low-to-mid 90’s. He also has a high-80’s slider which has been referred to as “wicked,” which is always a good thing to hear about a Minor League pitcher. But, as the title of this post implies, his best pitch is a high-80’s change-up. It’s extremely deceptive and can make hitters look foolish. I got to see that up close last year while I was in Arizona for Spring Training. The only thing I want to see Rivas improve upon is his walk rate, as his BB/9 last year was 4.8.

As I said earlier, the Brewers starting rotation is currently full. But, there are three possible pitchers who could leave after this season- Greinke, Marcum, and Wolf. It sounds like Greinke and the Brewers are having trouble coming to terms. Despite Marcum’s interest to stay, the Brewers haven’t had an long-term contract talks with him yet. Wolf has an option for 2013, and it’s still a mystery as to whether or not the Brewers will pick it up. As much as I want all of these guys to stay, I doubt the Brewers can keep all of them. That would open up a spot for a young pitcher- such as Rivas- to enter and make his mark.

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Tags: Amaury Rivas Chris Narveson Francisco Rodriguez John Axford Milwaukee Brewers Randy Wolf Shaun Marcum Yovani Gallardo Zack Greinke

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