Farm Fresh: Edwin Rios powered his way to Player of the Year
By Cary Osborne
It was hard not to be impressed at just the sight of Edwin Rios, the Dodgers’ Branch Rickey Minor League Player of the Year.
The 22-year-old corner infielder made a Dodger Stadium debut of sorts September 24, collecting his award prior to that night’s Dodgers-Rockies game.
After a homer barrage earlier this season for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, I emailed Quakes public relations director Mike Lindskog and asked him if the power was real, being that the California League is a known hitters’ league.
Lindskog confirmed it was.
Now I realize it was a dumb question.
Rios, squared shoulders and a squarer jawline, fit snug in the suit he wore on Saturday. A 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound legit dude who you wouldn’t want to cross. Except for the fact that he wears a huge smile, something he said he always brings to the ballpark.
“I feel like I’m growing into my body, and finally being able to control my body,” he said. “Hopefully the power keeps coming.”
Rios was second in the Dodger farm system with 27 homers. He slashed .301/.341/.567, splitting 108 games between Low-A Great Lakes, Rancho and Double-A Tulsa. There was a 33-game stretch with the Quakes in which he hit 16 homers and had an OPS of 1.187.
He homered once every 8.7 at-bats. Between July 8 and July 15, he had three multi-home run games.
“I love to hit home runs,” Rios said. “It’s fun running the bases (after).”
The Puerto Rico native is one of what’s turning out to be a phenomenal class of 2015 Dodger draftees.
Five of their top 20 prospects, as rated by MLB.com, came from the 2015 MLB Draft — fourth-rounder Willie Calhoun (4), first-rounder Walker Buehler (7), second-rounder Josh Sborz (15), 11th-rounder Imani Abdullah (16) and fifth-rounder Brendon Davis (18).
Calhoun, a second baseman who hit 27 homers in Tulsa, and Dodgers No. 1 prospect Cody Bellinger, figured to be Rios’ top competition for the Branch Rickey Award. Rios realized how significant it is that he was chosen over those rising stars.
“Those guys are great players, and to be considered among those type of players in this organization, just having your name being talked the way their names are talked — it’s an honor,” Rios said.
And it motivated him.
“You always play with that chip on your shoulder, and try to show (people) you’re just as good,” Rios said. “That’s what I wanted to do every time I got on the field. I wanted to show the scouts, I wanted to show the Dodgers, I wanted to show (the public) why they drafted me and why I’m here.”
Rios won’t be playing winter ball this offseason. He plans on keeping the same program as last year — one that involved working out with Major Leaguers Carlos Gonzalez, Martin Prado and former Dodger Miguel Rojas in his home state of Florida.
The next step? Rios made 20 errors in 68 games this year. So improving there is on the docket. But he added one more area where he wanted to improve — add more power.