Edwin Rios impressed in Summer Camp and ended up making the Dodgers’ Opening Day 30-man roster. When Gavin Lux surprisingly wasn’t selected to the roster, that allowed Rios an opportunity to add his power from the left side to the Dodgers already dangerous lineup.
Initially it looked as though Rios would primarily be used as a power lefty off the bench for manager Dave Roberts, but his hot start to the season has led to Rios playing in eight of the Dodgers first 16 games.
The 26-year-old from Puerto Rico is OPSing 1.169 and slugging .875 with three home runs and a double in his first 16 at-bats this season. In a shortened season he’s a powerful bat down the stretch and into the postseason. That is, if he continues to hit bombs consistently.
Rios hit his first home run of 2020 on July 29 in Houston, an epic game-winning dong in the 13th. It propelled the Dodgers to a 4-2 win over the Astros.
Rios made Dodgers history with the extra-innings blast.
His second home run of the year was August 1, when he absolutely crushed a 434-foot two-run homer in the 4th inning with a 109.6-mph exit velocity to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead over the D-backs.
“I’m just trying to be ready for every opportunity I get and then take advantage of it,” said Rios after the game.
Rios made his second start at third base in the series opener against the Giants on Friday night at Dodger Stadium. Before the game, Roberts said that Rios is the most improved player on the team since Spring Training.
Related to that, Rios said he took up boxing with Barry Larkin during the shutdown.
While Rios still has Justin Turner ahead of him on the depth chart, if he continues to send moon shots out of the park, Roberts should use Rios more, especially against right-handed pitching.
The addition of the designated hitter gives Rios another path to increased playing time. That along with the fact that the Dodgers infielders are versatile. Max Muncy can play first and second base, opening yet another way for Roberts to get Rios more playing time.
Rios has power to all fields and fares well vs. LHP and RHP, and proving he can hit lefties consistently is another way to give Dave an excuse to play him. So far, at the major-league level with the Dodgers, six of his seven home runs have been against RHP, but his latest homer was his first vs. LHP and was not any less impressive.
As everybody knows by now, Rios needs to cut down on the 37.5 percent strikeout rate he logged in 56 plate appearances last season. So far, he has a 29.4% strikeout rate in 2020 (17 PA). These are small sample sizes, but it’s clearly something to watch and be concerned about moving forward.
Similarly, we know his power is undeniable. His average exit velocity is only slightly lower than Corey Seager, who leads the team with a 94.8 mph average exit velocity.
Can Rios keep up his home run pace? Probably not like this, as he’s averaging a home run every 9 at-bats in his career with the Dodgers so far, but for as long as Rios continues to launch baseballs into outer space, the Dodgers should continue to go with him. It could be well worth finding out what they really have in him.
Oh right, and Dodgers Digest has a shirt for him already, because why not?