Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s KC Royals Projections series for 2022. Between now and Opening Day, our writers are analyzing how various Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Up today is catcher Sebastian Rivero.
With Salvador Perez playing at a career-best level and top prospect MJ Melendez appearing so close to being ready for the big leagues, the KC Royals are running out of room behind the plate.
That became painfully more apparent Monday when the Royals optioned Melendez to Triple-A Omaha (although he should make it to the big leagues at some point this season), leaving veteran big leaguer Cam Gallagher and Sebastian Rivero, who also has major league experience, as the likeliest candidates to back up Perez.
But that changed Thursday when the club optioned Rivero to Omaha (Twitter link).
Does that mean he won’t make it to Kansas City this season? Not necessarily.
Rivero, 23, is just 13 days younger than Melendez, but it was Rivero who spent some time with the Royals in 2021 when Gallagher was on the Injured List. In eight games, Rivero was just 2-for-18 but picked up five hits in September to finish with a .175 average, two doubles and three RBIs in Kansas City.
Signed as an amateur free agent out of his native Venezuela, Rivero has worked his way through the minor league system and put together a line of .260/.319/.380 with three home runs and 26 RBIs in 42 games at Triple-A Omaha.
How FanGraphs projects Sebastian Rivero will perform for the KC Royals.
FanGraphs (Depth Chart version) predicts little major league action for Rivero in 2022, projecting he’ll hit .220 in just 13 plate appearances.
How Sebastian Rivero will actually perform for the KC Royals in 2022.
Barring a surprise decision to move on from Gallagher or a slump by Melendez, Rivero appears destined to back up the latter until Melendez receives his inevitable call to KC. But don’t be surprised to see Rivero spend a little time with the Royals. Rivero struck out 45 times in 163 plate appearances in 2021 at Omaha and another 15 times in 44 plate appearances with Kansas City, so he’ll have to improve his plate discipline in order to extend any stay he might get.
Sebastian Rivero will likely spend most of this season at Omaha.