(Photo Credit: Ben Sandstrom/MiLB.com)
If there’s one spot in the Dodgers‘ farm system that’s considered a void, it’s probably third base. Yet after the year Edwin Rios had last season, the Florida International University product opened the eyes of many followers of the organization, and could very well be roaming the hot corner while on the fast track to the highest levels of the minors.
Primarily a first baseman in college, Rios spent three years at FIU, leading the Panthers to a Conference USA title during his third and final season in 2015. During that campaign, he hit .314 while leading the team with 18 home runs and 69 RBI.
Drafted by the Dodgers in the sixth round of the draft later that year, Rios was quickly ushered to the Arizona Rookie League, but eventually ended up in Ogden to finish the season in the Pioneer League, where he hit .235/.307/.471 with three long balls for the Raptors over 20 games.
Starting the 2016 season with the Low-A Great Lakes Loons, Rios slashed .252/.305/.487 with six home runs in 33 games, and quickly earned a promotion to High-A Rancho Cucamonga where he batted a monstrous .367/.394/.712 with 16 homers over 42 games in the hitter-friendly confines of the California League. He earned yet another promotion to Double-A Tulsa to close out the year, hitting .254/.304/.434 with five home runs in his final 33 games.
Having climbed three levels of the farm, the 22-year-old native of Puerto Rico pretty much flew under the radar in the eyes of many fans of the Dodgers, but didn’t go unnoticed as far as the organization was concerned. On September 2, Rios was named the Branch Rickey minor league player of the year alongside Brock Stewart, who was honored as the Dodgers’ minor league pitcher of the year.
Overall, Rios slashed .303/.344/.576 with 25 doubles and 27 home runs in 104 games across three levels of the farm. He tied Tulsa teammate Willie Calhoun with 27 long balls and finished the year one behind former Rancho teammate Johan Mieses for the organizational lead.
In terms of a scouting report, Rios’ bread and butter is his bat. He’s a left-handed masher who has power to all fields, and similar to most power hitters at the big league level, has an extremely aggressive approach with a very long swing.
His biggest struggle so far during his young career, however, has been his defense, especially at the hot corner. Although he has a rifle for an arm, he lacks in quickness and range and has shown signs of being error-prone. There’s no question at all that he can handle first base, but considering that Cody Bellinger is a few ticks ahead of him on the organizational ladder, it could be tough to find a job there at the Triple-A level in the immediate future.
Rios will have an opportunity to begin the 2017 season with Tulsa and flaunt his skills with the lumber in the Texas League, where pitching is at a premium. He’ll probably still get quite a few looks at third, but could see time at first base considering that Bellinger likely begins the year at Oklahoma City.