2015 Washington Nationals Player Review: Felipe Rivero


Amidst a bullpen that struggled with injuries, off-field drama, and overall consistency, Washington Nationals young lefthander Felipe Rivero quietly put together an impressive rookie season that leaves some wondering just how high his ceiling could be. The Venezuelan-born southpaw pitched in 49 games, allowing a 2.79 ERA and 0.952 WHIP while striking out 43 and walking eleven. He recorded six holds, converted two of his three save opportunities, and sported a stellar FIP of 2.64. 

Rivero made his MLB debut on April 17, but would go on the DL soon after because of a GI bleed. He would return to the Washington clubhouse on June 1 and remained with them the rest of the season. In his first two full months on a major league roster, Rivero posted an eye-popping 1.77 ERA. He would struggle in August, allowing hitters to post a .280/.333/.380 slash line and he had a ERA of 4.50 in 14 appearances. But, he rebounded nicely to finish the season. He did not allow a home run to a left-hander all season, and ended the year with seven consecutive shutout appearances.

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While most would have expected manager Matt Williams to use Rivero in a situational lefty role, with all the struggles endured by his teammates, he was forced into high-pressure, middle-inning situations. The 23-year old fared well against hitters from both sides of the plate, holding both lefties and righties to a .198 batting average. He pitched them pretty similarly as well, relying heavily on his fastball while using the slider as his out pitch.

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Rivero’s most devastating pitch, according to Brooks Baseball, was his changeup. Hitters whiffed on it 52% of the times they swung, 18% higher than either of his other two pitches. Deep in at-bats, Rivero got even tougher to beat, holding batters to a .167 batting average in full counts. His biggest drawback, however, was his inability to get outs with runners on base. While he only allowed six inherited runners to score all season, Fangraphs shows that with runners on, he allowed hitters to hit 130 points higher.

With the bullpen facing major reconstruction this offseason, most of the members of the Washington Nationals 2015 relief corps will likely be wearing different uniforms next season. Felipe Rivero should not be too worried, however, as he appears to be an integral part of the revamped bullpen when the 2016 season begins. While he faced little-to-no expectations in his rookie campaign, he will certainly be held to a higher standard in his sophomore season.