On Saturday, September 24, 2016, Edwin Rios will be honored with the Los Angeles Dodgers Branch Rickey Minor League Player of the Year Award at Dodger Stadium before the first pitch against the Colorado Rockies.
I asked Rios, what does it mean to receive such an honor:
Rios says, “I’m still a bit numb to be honest, but it’s such a huge honor for my family and me.”
Having just completed the 2016 season with the Dodgers’ Double AA team, the Tulsa Drillers, Rios received the honors last Friday. The 22-year-old from Puerto Rico finished the season with 27 home runs producing an overall slash line .301/.341/.567. Tied for most HRs in the club’s minor league organization this season, it is evident the powerful left-handed batter brings the power for one the best, if not, the deepest farm systems in the league.
Take a look for yourself:
Rios’ power capability highlights him to be one of the better hitters in the minor leagues today. However, it is no surprise to some individuals that have helped him throughout his baseball career. One of those individuals is Sam Peraza, who was the pitching coach at Florida International University (FIU) and now the current pitching coach at San Diego State University. Here’s what Coach Peraza had to say about his former player:
“Edwin always had a plan and great approach when he stepped up to the plate. He studied pitchers and the way pitchers would pitch to him, and he listened when the adjustments had to be made. I would say to him how I would pitch to him. It impressed me how he has grown not only as a hitter, but as a person.”
Rios led the eventual 2015 Conference USA Champions FIU Panthers with a conference leading 18 home runs, ranking him No.4 in the nation. Rios’ conference leading HRs and second-ranked RBIs (56) awarded him First-Team All-Conference USA the same year. The Los Angeles Dodgers recognized the 6-foot-4 prospect and drafted him in the 6th round of the 2015 draft.
He said, “I’m grateful I had the opportunity to play at FIU because it helped me tremendously not only on the field but off the field as well.”
Rios was a success story in high school playing for Osceola High School in Osceola, Florida. He led the school to a District Championship in 2012 and was expected to be drafted after his high school senior year in 2012. Yet, to his surprise, there was no call from coaches or major league teams. It was a disappointing time that would be a turning point for him.
“It’s tough, but you could only control what you can control. That’s what has made me a better player. And what I can control is to give my best every time I step on the field. At FIU, I learned to communicate better with my team and coaches, to be accountable on and especially off the field and more importantly appreciate the support of family,” he said.
Rios is one of three boys in the family. His two younger brothers, whom also stand about 6 feet-2 inches have relied on the support and faith from their parents. Rios’ mother played beach volleyball and Rios’ father, 6’5″, played for Cleveland State one year before returning to Puerto Rico to play Double-A ball as a catcher, third and first baseman.
“I’ve always remained close and listened to my parents. I listened to my father after getting cut from a team early on in high school. He has pushed me to keep playing, keep playing hard and more importantly to have faith.”
Rios’ approach to the game and his faith have earned him honors at FIU and is rising in the Minor League system. With the Dodgers’ High-A minor league team, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, Rios posted 16 Home Runs and 46 RBIs in just 42 games. On the defensive side, Rios is a prospective third-baseman but has also seen playing time at first-base since his time at FIU.
Peraza recalls, “Josh Anderson played 3rd base for us when Rios joined the Panthers in 2013 as a freshman. We knew he could handle playing multiple positions. So, in order to keep both players in the lineup, we moved Rios to play first base even though he was just as good at third base. We felt that although he played a new position, it wouldn’t affect him offensively.” Sure enough, Rios earned Second Team Freshman All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association in 2013.
In just one year, the standout from Caguas, Puerto Rico has been promoted, deservingly so, from the Rookie level up to Double AA and it doesn’t appear he will be slowing down. In his Minors League career, he has contributed 30 home runs, 89 RBIs with 493 at-bats in 130 games. Having just little time so far in the minor league, Rios is taking advantage of every opportunity presented.
“You can’t look pass the highs and lows, you can only do what you can in the moment. You can’t worry too much about what’s going to happen, it doesn’t work like that,” he said.
With the hitting capability and the right attitude, it’s hard not to look ahead at the future of this young prospect. Rios’ home runs total for the season was only one shy from the club’s minor league record. Rios has kept his focus and made the adjustments since joining the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm system. So, the question does not become if Rios is going on to be on a major league roster, but rather, when?