One of the best ways to describe the Cubs offensively in 2021 was all-or-nothing. They hit 210 home runs, 11th most in MLB, but the lineup stacked full of free-swinging sluggers also produced a league-leading 1,596 strikeouts. Their 502 walks ranked 19th in MLB and their .312 on-base percentage was 20th.
There is nothing wrong with having a bunch of K-prone power bats in the lineup as long as you have a few contact hitters mixed in who can get on base. Mark Grace and Ben Zobrist immediately jump to mind when thinking of this type of hitter. Alfonso Rivas could bring a similar plate profile to this iteration of the Cubs.
Acquired in a trade with Oakland for Tony Kemp in January 2020, Rivas, had good numbers in 2019 but was unable to show much with the Cubs because the minors shut down due to COVID. A fourth-round pick out of the University of Arizona in 2018, Rivas had enough polish to start 2021 at Triple-A Iowa. He battled injury early but played well enough in Des Moines to make his MLB debut in August after Jed Hoyer dismantled the team.
There isn’t much to take away from those 49 plate appearances with the Cubs, but his minor league production shows an advanced ability to get on base and avoid striking out. He has a career .393 on-base percentage and a K-rate of 20% (MiLB average is around 25%) to go with a walk percentage of 13% (MiLB average 9%).
The tradeoff is a complete lack of power, as Rivas only has 14 minor-league home runs in 1,037 PAs, not ideal for a corner infielder. There’s also the matter of potentially creating an infield in which there’s a complete power void at three positions, but Rivas is a left-handed batter whose work with the glove is solid.
And who knows, maybe he’ll develop enough pop to be more than just a table-setter. Rivas has a chance over the remainder of spring training to remove all doubt, but I think he has already earned the chance to break camp with the big club.