Geo Rivera, Jr. is no stranger to the personnel within the Cleveland Guardians organization.
Sure, he hardly spoke to the Guardians before the 2022 MLB Draft; a phone call and a few text messages with the area scout was the extent of the back and forth. But Rivera was excited to be picked up by Cleveland. He’s friends with Lake County Captains’ pitcher Lenny Torres and Guardians ace Triston McKenzie. Rivera’s cousins went to Beacon High School with Torres, and the new draftee and McKenzie participated in winter training at Cressey Sports Performance in Florida.
The Guardians made Rivera their 19th-round draft pick during this year’s draft, making him the 571st selection off the board. A dominant starter for Walters State Community College, Rivera finished his 2022 season with one complete game, 15 relief appearances and five saves through 20 overall outings. He also struck out 89 batters across 58.1 innings and only allowed 15 walks.
This summer, he participated in the MLB Draft League for the Frederick Keys, tossing 13 innings and striking out 12 in that time. While he is committed to Oregon State for 2023, he said that he is expecting to officially sign a contract with the Guardians this weekend and is currently settling in with the organization with the rest of the new draftees.
“I was just really excited, and it was just surreal,” Rivera said of getting drafted. “It was a crazy moment.”
Rivera began his baseball journey at the age of four. He used to watch his older brother, Mark, at the baseball fields in Kiln Creek Park, a small area on the Eastern edge of Virginia near the ocean. Rivera’s father was also a member of a wooden bat league at the time, so Rivera grew up around baseball, fostering his love of the game.
That simple start, hanging on a chain link fence in a little corner of Virginia, eventually led Rivera to Old Dominion as a pitcher, then Walters State, then a small room off the main hallway at a JW Marriott where this year’s draft was held. His family and advisor, Michael Zimmerman of Aces Inc., could peer slightly out of the room to catch glimpses of the live draft as it was unfolding.
Cleveland called Zimmerman, who subsequently told Rivera that the Guardians, a team “lightly on (his) radar” had drafted him. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound right hander who’s self-described go-to pitch is his four-seam fastball was excited to join a loaded Guardians organization known for developing arms.
“It was a great opportunity because I knew how well they develop pitchers in the organization,” Rivera said. “I knew it’d be a really good spot for me.”
Rivera said that his slider, complementing his fastball, is his go-to putaway pitch thus far, allowing him to attack batters with either three – sometimes four – of his pitches at any point in the count. Still, despite an aggressive approach to pitching, he’s allowed just two home runs since he started college. His weakness, though, is that sometimes the game can speed up on him. He said he starts overthinking about, say, the next pitch, which typically ends in leaving a pitch over the plate.
But after a difficult stretch with Old Dominion, Rivera’s numbers drastically improved. He maintained his microscopic ERA and sizable chunk of strikeouts when he moved from WSCC to the MLB Draft League, demonstrating his first true jump in his young career.