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A good look at Alfonso Rivas, from the University of Arizona to the Cubs

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The former Arizona Wildcat is a potential star.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

People lately have been commenting on Alfonso Rivas’ easygoing demeanor, and also his line-drive stroke. The former Arizona Wildcat is doing well for himself, I’m pleased to see. He’s a potential star, in my eyes, and I don’t think I’m alone thinking that.

I can attest that he’s had both that presence and that easy stroke at least since 2017, when I first saw him play at the U of A. Saw him play a few more times, spraying line drives all over the yard, playing left field mostly.

He hasn’t historically had a home run bat, but an easy Keith Hernandez/Bill Buckner comp comes to mind. That’s not a bad thing. His demeanor reminds me more of Rafael Palmeiro, though Palmeiro had power in college — 67 career homers at Mississippi State, as opposed to Rivas’ 15. Raffy was smooth like that, when he and Mark Grace came up. Neither had any power early.

I suspect that the young man has an MLB career ahead of him. I’d like to hit him third for the next 10 years or so and find out if that line-drive stroke becomes powerful. 14 homers in 874 minor league at-bats and a high of seven two years in a row at the U of A says maybe, maybe not, and that’s why the Athletics sent him to the Cubs. The bat is for real. He’s done nothing but hit.

Tim Stebbins called him ‘intriguing’. “It’s in my game, being a hitter first rather than just start launching balls,” Rivas said. “That’s something I take pride in and really focus on every pitch, strike zone discipline and all that stuff.”

Matt Baron of the Daily Herald called his debut ‘Grace-like.’ Rivas did whack a home run, his first MLB long ball, Tuesday night against the Phillies [VIDEO].

Rivas sure doesn’t look lost in the outfield. He doesn’t have great wheels but he can run well enough to play a corner. Assuming that David Ross manages the team next year, there’ll be matchup opportunities. I bet he’d like a better one, but Ross isn’t afraid to use his roster. And guys that can hit likes Rivas can aren’t common.

Greg Huss said Rivas was looking to fill Rizzo’s shoes, quite some time ago. I’ve seen nothing that would dissuade me from agreement. Tim Huwe wrote about him last October. He called Rivas “better than the Cubs have usually gotten from second-day bats in their first year.” Later he called him “best first base prospect since Vogelbach!” Todd Johnson is similarly enthusiastic.

Trade him for Trout, now.

Rivas came in trade for Tony Kemp, who wasn’t doing anything much for the Cubs at the time. He had a number of hard choices to make just in order to keep playing baseball. “Academically, I went down the drain,” he said. “I struggled a lot. But I figured baseball could be my way out. Baseball was something I was relying on.”

His college coach, Jay Johnson, said “if he continues to develop, I think he has a chance to be one of those special guys...” Johnson has coached a few major-leaguers (28 MLB draft picks in all). He’s at LSU now.