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No panic: Alfonso Rivas’ incredibly calm approach has impressed Cubs

3 months agoTony Andracki

Alfonso Rivas knows exactly who he is.

In a game currently built on power and strikeouts, Rivas has zigged while the rest of baseball has zagged.

Especially considering his position — first base and corner outfield have long been known as spots occupied by power hitters.

That’s not how Rivas approaches it. The scouting report on the Cubs rookie is that he utilizes the whole field, spraying line drives all over the place.

“That’s kinda been my game — be a hitter first rather than just start launching balls,” Rivas said. “That’s something I take pride in. I really focus on every pitch, strike zone discipline and all that stuff.”

Rivas — who just turned 25 this week — was called up to the big leagues in late August and hit his first MLB home run Tuesday night Philadelphia.

It was quite the memory but it all happened so fast for Rivas.

“Very surreal, honestly,” he told Marquee Sports Network’s Taylor McGregor after the game. “I don’t really remember it. I remember hitting the ball. I was looking to barrel something up and it went over the fence. It was very surreal, for sure.”

It was most certainly real, as is Rivas’ impact in his first few weeks with the Cubs.

He’s striking out a bit more than he did throughout the minor leagues, but that’s to be expected in the jump from Triple-A to the majors.

In 58 games with Triple-A Iowa, Rivas walked 14.8% of the time (35 in 237 plate appearances) and posted a .405 on-base percentage. For perspective, Anthony Rizzo’s career walk rate is 11.1%.

It’s that type of approach that has turned heads within the Cubs organization since the team acquired him in a trade with the A’s in January of 2020 (Tony Kemp went from Chicago to Oakland in the deal).

“Rivy has done a nice job of making his mark last spring training and impressing us and the way he has this calmness about the way he plays,” David Ross said. “You feel like at first in the box, he’s half asleep. And I say that in a positive way where there’s no panic in his game.

“Seems just super smooth and easy and relaxed. Really quality at-bats, sees pitches, commands the strike zone, feels like he gives you a really good at-bat every time he’s up there. He’s played a nice outfield for us so far and he’s nice at first, too.”

Rivas’ natural position is first base but he has played more outfield (39 innings) than first (27 innings) with the Cubs in the early going as Frank Schwindel has locked down the everyday role at first base.

Rivas played outfield in the minors (25 games) as well as college at the University of Arizona.

With Jason Heyward on the IL due to a head injury, the Cubs plan to give Rivas the lion’s share of playing time in the outfield.

As the Cubs move into the next phase as an organization, Rivas is a young player who could certainly factor into the team’s long-term plans.

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