Name: Edinson Rincon
DOB: August 11, 1990
Signed as an international free agent in May of 2007, Rincon was immediately put to work as a 16-year-old. He hit .295 with a .383 on-base percentage and nine extra base hits across 33 games with the Dominican Summer League Padres and earned a stateside promotion.
Rincon, who turned 17 while in the Arizona Rookie League, began his stateside career under duress; he went hitless in his first 21 at-bats. After the auspicious start, Rincon battled back to go 8-for-24 over his final eight games to boost his average to .178.
Ironically, the success began in the first game after his 17th birthday. It was a terrific sign that he could make an adjustment at such a young age.
A knee injury that required surgery precluded Rincon from beginning the 2008 season on time. He returned to the AZL Padres in late July and made a positive impression at the dish.
In 23 games, the Dominican native hit .308 with a .429 on-base percentage. Fifteen of his 20 hits came with runners in scoring position, netting 19 RBI as a result. He hit .429 with runners in scoring position compared to a .174 mark with the bases empty.
He did draw 14 walks compared to 18 strikeouts, although nine of the strikeouts came in his first six games.
Just two of his hits, however, went for extra bases.
"He's going to hit," AZL Padres manager Jose Flores said. "He's got the natural ability to hit the baseball. On the offensive side, the more games and at-bats that he gets under his belt, he's going to mature into the type of hitter that people expect him to be. Right now, he has some pop in his bat; he has some life in his bat. He tends to be a little too big in his swing where he just wants to juice balls."
Rincon is an imposing presence. His forearms are rock solid, and he has a stocky build. While the power wasn't present during the 2008 season, there are few who doubt Rincon's potential to send balls flying out of the yard.
"He just turned 18, wow," AZL Padres hitting coach Bob Skube said. "Extreme – he has a lot of power, obviously still really young. His weakness right now is that he just tends to over swing once in a while. But his discipline got a lot better as he got more playing time.
The most important part of his offensive game is maintaining a consistent approach. The power will blossom when it is ready – and it seems to be about to boil.
In fact, his pitch recognition isn't as good as the strikeout-to-walk totals might suggest, but he is powerful enough to muscle the ball over an infielders head or through a hole.
With that in mind, Rincon simply needs more action in live games to become accustomed to the differing breaks on pitches. He is still learning how to get his hands inside the ball to drive it to all parts of the field.
"What was impressive about him was, again, like Decker, being 18 and understanding the approach that the Padres want to teach our young hitters in that you see a lot of pitchers and get into hitters' counts and drive the ball once you get into those hitters' counts," Skube said. "He did a really good job of that."
Rincon has a rap to his swing that will make it long at times – pointing the bat towards the pitcher as the ball is delivered. When his hands are relaxed, he is able to get extension and make solid contact – even on pitches off the plate.
The third baseman also needs to allow the ball to travel more. He will hit the ball out in front of his body and that costs him time seeing its break and squaring it up.
"At this point in time, I think with his immaturity, only just turning 18, is something that I can see this kid being a legitimate hitter with some power that can drive balls to all parts of the field, and recognizing pitch selection and pitch recognition," Flores said. "So that's one of the things that he's going to have to do as he keep coming along, if he can mature and be able to lay off certain types of pitches that he knows he can't hit, he's going to be a dominating type of player, offensively."
Defensively, Rincon has a lot of work to do. In the 12 games where the converted catcher played third base, he committed eight errors.
He isn't fluid in his maneuvering and is stiff in reading and reacting to the ball. The late start makes him rush his delivery, causing errant throws. Rincon will need to work extensively on fielding grounders in a ready position and his lateral quickness to stay at the hot corner.
"One of the biggest things that I think he needs to do is obviously work a lot on his defense," Flores said. "To me, being the biggest thing will be his defense because I just found out maybe two weeks before the season ended that he was a catcher before they made him a third baseman. And you can kind of tell that, but before that I really didn't know that about him so I would see him do this thing at practice and at work, and he just didn't seem comfortable doing it. I found out he was a catcher, and I can see why he looks so rough around the edges playing third base. But that's one of the biggest things if they decide to keep him at the hot corner; he's going to need to make some huge leaps because he just looks rough. So that's one of the things."
"Rincon is very raw right now," Latin American scout Felix Feliz said. "He needs to improve in all areas. He has the tools, especially his bat and he can hit with power too."
Conclusion: Rincon, who will play most of 2009 at 18, has all the potential in the world with his bat. He has plus power potential with an improving eye. His progress will be determined by at-bats and live game action.
The defensive concerns are valid. If he does not make a marked improvement, Rincon might find himself shifting to first base or the outfield. His range would be limited in left field but his bat can play anywhere.
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