A deep and talented high school pitching class in Florida gained another top arm this week with lefthander Willie Rios transferring to IMG Academy.
Righthanders Touki Toussaint, Cobi Johnson and Sean Reid-Foley headline the class, and could all be first-day selections. Rios, considered a potential top-three round talent, is one of the top lefthanders in the Sunshine state.
Rios attended St. Bernard High, in Waterford, Conn., for the first few weeks of the school year. The Rios family traveled to Florida this week to visit IMG and finalized their decision to transfer on Tuesday. Wednesday was his first day of school at IMG.
“Athletically, this will put me in a better situation for the MLB draft, and if that doesn’t work out I will be ahead of the curve and better prepared for college with being able to manage my time,” Rios said. “These are some of the top facilities in the country. The only way you can’t get better here is if you try to screw things up and not work, because they have everything set up for you to improve and succeed.”
Rios, a Maryland commit, has athleticism, a deep repertoire and present stuff. At 5-foot-10, 186 pounds, Rios has a medium frame and a strong, compact build with physicality through his shoulders, chest and lower half. His delivery offers athleticism, a quick arm and some deception, which allows him to hide the ball well. In short stints, Rios can sit 90-93 mph with his fastball and settle in at 88-92 over extended innings. He has feel for a three offspeed offerings, a low-80s changeup, which is his go-to offspeed pitch, a mid-70s curveball and a low-80s slider. His slider and changeup have the potential to be average offerings.
“Now that I am pitching against the best kids in the country in Florida I won’t be able to throw my fastball by guys like I was in Connecticut,” Rios said. “My changeup is going to be a bigger part of my game than what it has been. I usually throw my curveball more to lefties and my slider to the back foot of righties but I am working with the coaches to be able to throw them to both-handed hitters in any situation.”
His control is currently ahead of his command and he has the athleticism to consistently throw strikes. Rios has quick feet and he fields his position well.
The 17-year-old Rios, an average runner, is a switch-hitting outfielder who can also play first base. He has bat-to-ball ability and was a vital offensive cog during Team Elite’s championship at the inaugural Metropolitan Baseball Classic, making consistent loud contact.
Rios will play for Team Elite at the WWBA World Championship, which will be held from October 24-28 in Jupiter, Fla.