The San Francisco Giants have several exciting young arms in the lower levels of the minors. Blake Rivera has been one of the early standouts.
After selecting catcher Joey Bart with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, the San Francisco Giants grabbed four straight right-handed pitchers from the college and JUCO ranks.
Blake Rivera was part of that group, chosen No. 106 overall in the fourth round out of Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Alabama.
Baseball America ranked him as the No. 169 prospect in the class prior to the draft and wrote the following:
"Rivera has a pair of above-average pitches with a 93-96 mph fastball and a power curveball that is inconsistent but has late-count strikeout potential when he lands it. Rivera went 10-0, 1.75 with 98 strikeouts, 35 walks and 28 hits allowed in 65 innings. Rivera projects as a power reliever in pro ball."
Despite that assessment, the Giants trotted him out as a starter to begin his pro career and he was hit hard to the tune of a 6.16 ERA and 1.63 WHIP in 19 innings at Low-A Salem-Keizer.
On the heels of that performance, MLB.com pegged him as the No. 18 prospect in the system heading into 2019 while offering up a similar scouting report:
"Rivera has a legitimate out pitch in a low-80s curveball with sharp break. He’s also capable of reaching 96 mph with his fastball, though he’s most effective when he operates in the low 90s with sink. He began using his changeup more as a sophomore, showing the potential to become a solid third pitch.Rivera has a smoother delivery when he paces himself as a starter but features more effort and some head whack when he reaches back for maximum velocity. He has the upside of a mid-rotation starter if he can get more consistent with his control and changeup. Some scouts who saw him as an amateur liked him more as a late-inning reliever who could focus on his curve and fastball."
He was sent to Single-A Augusta to start the year and he has once again been working out of the rotation, this time to impressive results.
In 12 starts, he has posted a 3.25 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and a 70-to-30 strikeout-to-walk rate over 55.1 innings.
That 4.9 BB/9 walk rate still gives some reason for pause, but there is a lot to like about how the 6’4″, 225-pounder has looked so far this year, particularly of late.
Over his past four starts, he has posted a 2.08 ERA and a .203 opponents’ batting average. More importantly, he has allowed just six walks while punching out 32 in 21.2 innings of work.
He was utterly dominant in his June 6 start, allowing just one hit over six scoreless innings with two walks and 10 strikeouts.
The 21-year-old followed that up with 5.2 innings of shutout ball on June 12, and going back to his start on June 1, he has now rattled off a 13-inning scoreless streak.
There is work to be done with his command and his changeup, and there’s a good chance he’ll spend the bulk of the season in Single-A honing his craft. After all, the San Francisco Giants have no reason to rush him.
Still, Blake Rivera is providing some real reason for excitement right now, and he should be moving up prospect lists once they are updated at midseason.