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By Will Kimmey
Rios adds to his status with top-notch winter
Plenty of Latin players grow up wanting to play in the Caribbean Series more than they’d like to reach a World Series because the former means they get to represent their home country on an international stage.
Alexis Rios, however, turned down the opportunity this winter. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to play for his native Puerto Rico; he just need some rest. It’s been quite a year for the Blue Jays outfield prospect, who played a combined 199 games between the Double-A Eastern League regular season and playoffs, the 2003 Olympic qualifying tournament and the Puerto Rican League season and playoffs.
Rios said he was too exhausted to join Ponce in the Caribbean Series after it eliminated his team, Caguas, in the Puerto Rican playoffs. But he never showed evidence of that during the season. He led the Puerto Rican League with 37 RBIs, ranked second in batting at .348 and tied for second with 12 homers to earn MVP honors. He stayed hot through the playoffs, hitting .297-4-14 in 74 at-bats. That performance earned Rios, 23, Baseball America’s Winter Player of the Year Award.
“He has power to all fields, with big, long arms, but his swing is not real long,” said an NL scout who watched Rios in Puerto Rico. “He has a quick bat, and he can hit the fastball . . . and hit the good fastball.”
Rios had already played 127 regular season games and two playoff series for Double-A New Haven, where he hit .352-11-82 with 11 steals and 54 extra-base hits to win the Eastern League MVP award.
For more on Rios, and the top prospects from across winter ball, see Prospect Pulse.
1985-1986—Wally Joyner, 1b, Mayaguez (Puerto Rico)
1986-1987—Vicente Palacios, rhp, Mexicali (Mexican Pacific)
1987-1988—Jose Nunez, rhp, Escogido (Dominican Republic)
1988-1989—Phil Stephenson, 1b, Zulia (Venezuela)
1989-1990—Edgar Martinez, 3b, San Juan (Puerto Rico)
1990-1991—Henry Rodriguez, of, Licey (Dominican Republic)
1991-1992—Wilson Alvarez, lhp, Zulia (Venezuela)
1992-1993—Matias Carrillo, of, Mexicali (Mexican Pacific)
1993-1994—John Hudek, rhp, Magallanes (Venezuela)
1994-1995—Carlos Delgado, c, San Juan (Puerto Rico)
1995-1996—Darryl Brinkley, of, Mexicali (Mexican Pacific)
1996-1997—Bartolo Colon, rhp, Aguilas (Dominican Republic)
1997-1998—Jose Hernandez, ss, Mayaguez (Puerto Rico)
1998-1999—Bob Abreu, of, Caracas (Venezuela)
1999-2000—Morgan Burkhart, 1b, Navojoa (Mexican Pacific)
2000-2001—Courtney Duncan, rhp, Caguas (Puerto Rico)
2001-2002—Ramon Hernandez, c, Pastora (Venezuela)
2002-2003—Arnie Munoz, lhp, Aguilas (Venezuela)
2003-2004 winter all stars