Cardinals prospect making the most of Fall League opportunity

October 10th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- got the chance of a lifetime when the Cardinals invited him to Spring Training earlier this year. The Venezuelan native was starstruck when he entered the club's training facility in Florida, knowing he was sharing a clubhouse with Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt.

"It felt like a dream," Rivas said in Spanish after the Scorpions' 7-6 loss against the Rafters at Salt River Fields. "They were a big inspiration to me ever since I was young."

Rivas is a student of the game, so, naturally, he soaked in as much wisdom as possible from the Cardinals' star players during the Spring. Rivas said he continues to talk to fellow Venezuelan Willson Contreras about improving in the batter's box.

Eight months later, the 20-year-old shortstop had another career-altering opportunity when the Cardinals selected him to represent the club in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. He was ecstatic about heading to the desert because of the AFL's reputation as a hotbed for future MLB talent. Rivas said he is taking the AFL stint as seriously as when he was invited to Spring Training.

"I was shocked," Rivas said. "I wasn't expecting an invitation. I was really thankful to God and the team for the opportunity to be here. This is really big for me."

Rivas, who signed with the Cardinals as an international free agent for $600,000 in 2019, is showing his appreciation by having a strong start to the Fall. In the first week of AFL action, Rivas hit 6-for-15 (.400). His momentum carried into Monday's contest, where he had a three-hit game and drove in a run for the Scorpions.

Rivas isn't a power threat, as he's slugged five home runs through three Minor League seasons. So, it was promising that after his first two singles, which registered at 72.8 and 87.4 mph, respectively, he finished off with a scorching 100.7 mph single that was just out of reach of Rafters second baseman Jase Brown. He showed aggressiveness with two first-pitch hits, and the third came on the second one he saw.

"It's about putting in the work daily," Rivas said of his performance. "We always have a routine before the game, and it reflected today.

"It's very important to me. I always want to help the team win."

Rivas has been praised for his defense but will need to improve at the plate to be a reliable player in the Majors. His slash line descended over three Minor League seasons, ultimately dropping to .209/.293/.277 in 2023.

"It just happens," Rivas said. "But I've been working hard every day and I feel like the results are showing."

So what exactly has Rivas done to succeed in the AFL? He continues to learn from the players around him, just as he did in Spring Training. Except this time, it's from heralded prospects who are trying to achieve the same goal as him, reaching the Majors.

"There's a lot of really good prospects I can learn from every day," Rivas said. "I've learned a lot from Victor Scott II (STL No. 4). He has a really good routine. I'm with him daily, and I've learned so much from him."

Scott reached base twice with a single and a walk in Monday's loss. Along with Rivas, Israel Pineda (WSH No. 21) and Gabriel Rincones Jr. (PHI No. 9) had multihit games.

Sterlin Thompson (COL No. 6) went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, Caleb Robers (AZ) finished 2-for-5 and Jackson Jobe (DET No. 3) pitched four innings, striking out four and allowing two earned runs for the Rafters.