Ruben Rivera was one of the biggest prospect busts in recent history. Rivera was signed by the New York Yankees as a free agent out of the Panama in November of 1990. He is a cousin of Mariano Rivera. Extremely toolsy, he excited scouts with both his speed and his immense power potential. He hit .273/.417/.371 with 21 steals in the 1992 Gulf Coast League, showing lots of speed as well as the ability to draw walks. He didn't make the Baseball America Top GCL Prospects list, but I remember being aware of him as a player to watch even back then. I would likely rate someone similar as a Grade C+ with higher potential nowadays. He followed that up with a .276/.385/.568 campaign for Oneonta in the New York-Penn League in 1993, with 13 homers and 12 steals. His only flaw at this point was a very high strikeout rate, more than once per game. But he hit for power, stole bases, and drew walks. Scouting reports were very enthusiastic, and given his tools, I'd probably have rated him at Grade B+. He was named Top Prospect in the NY-P by BA. Moved up to Greensboro in the Sally League in '94, he hit .288/.372/.573 with 28 homers and 36 steals. He scuffled with the strike zone after being promoted to Tampa, hitting .261/.308/.448 in 34 games and continuing to fan more than once per game. Despite those issues, Eddie Epstein gave him a Grade B+ in his '95 Minor League Scouting Notebook, pointing out his exceptional tools and power/speed potential, but worrying about the strikeouts and the slippage in his walk rate against better pitching. My take would have been similar; Rivera's upside was tremendous, but there was risk involved. Rivera hit .293/.402/.523 with 37 walks and 16 steals and nine homers in 71 games for Double-A Norwich in '95, then .270/.373/.598 with 15 homers and 26 walks in 48 games for Triple-A Columbus, at age 20. I gave him a straight Grade A in the '96 prospect book, and compared him to Bobby Bonds. I expected that Rivera would put up Bobby Bonds-like numbers as a major leaguer: so-so batting average with a lot of strikeouts, but tons of power, lots of speed, and a high walk rate keeping his OBP very good despite the strikeouts.
The Cautionary Tale of Ruben Rivera
SB Nation | Feb 19