When I was watching the Washington Nationals game on MASN Monday afternoon against the Houston Astros, one of the pitchers on the Nats that stood out to me was Felipe Rivero. Rivero was the third pitcher to come into the game after the solid performance by Jordan Zimmermann. In the game, he threw two shutout innings, gave up one hit, and struck out two. At one point, Rivero hit 96 miles per hour with his fastball on the radar gun.
Shortly after the game, the Nats decide to send Rivero down to their minor league camp. He will begin the season in double-A Harrisburg as part of the Senators rotation:
In case the name Felipe Rivero doesn’t sound familiar, he was one of the three players that the Nats received from the Rays last season in the Nate Karns trade along with catcher jose Lobaton and outfielder Drew Vettleson. This spring, Rivero put up good numbers for the team as he gave up three hits and struck out four in four innings of work.
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Rivero did have three saves in the first five seasons he was in the Rays’ minor league system. However, the Nationals seem set to make him a starter when you consider that all 14 of the 23-year-old’s appearances a season ago were as a starter. These came in rookie ball, high-A Hagerstown, and at Harrisburg.
One of the things that is encouraging about Rivero heading into this season is the way he ended his double-A stint last year. Before the double-A All-Star break, he was 1-5 with a 5.04 ERA, had 11 walks in 25 innings and allowed opponents to hit .315 against him.
However, in the month of August, things seemed to click for him. In four starts, he was 1-2, but had a 2.89 ERA, 21 strikeouts to seven walks and a .169 opponents batting average.
One start I want to focus on in particular was Rivero’s final start of the year on August 30 against the Portland Sea Dogs. In that outing, he went 4.2 innings, gave up five runs (one earned) on three hits, walked two, and struck out eight, which was a season-high.
Rivero did pitch in the Arizona Fall League this year, but had some rough numbers. In seven starts, he had a 6.08 ERA. In 23.2 innings of work, he struck out 15 batters and walked 11. That being said, he did only give up a combined four earned runs in his final three starts of the AFL campaign.
Currently, MLB Pipeline ranks the left-hander as the 16th best prospect in the Nationals organization, but he is the highest ranked pitchers in terms of left-handers. If Rivero can cut down on the walks (3.7 walks per nine), he has the makings to be a pitcher that could help the Nats either late this season or in 2016.