Edwin Ríos is in position to set a National League record, admittedly one far, far more obscure than Duke Snider’s.
With two days remaining in the 2020 season, no player in NL history with five singles or fewer has ever had more total bases than Ríos. In fact, the only obstacles for Ríos setting the MLB record are 1) Hunter Renfroe of the Rays and 2) the possiblity of hitting a sixth single.
This is useless trivia except for one thing. It illustrates the level of power Ríos brings to the Dodgers and their pursuit of a title in October.
In 121 career at-bats for Los Angeles, Ríos has eight doubles and 11 home runs for a .612 slugging percentage. With a .336 career on-base percentage, he’s not an all-or-nothing hitter, but it’s safe to say that power is his calling card.
Ríos’ entire big-league career still falls under the definition of small sample size compared with someone like Joc Pederson, who might be his main rival for playing time in October. But given Pederson’s challenges on and off the field in 2020, it’s growing harder to make the case that Ríos doesn’t belong in the Dodgers’ starting lineup as one of their top nine hitters.
Batting left-handed, Ríos has even held his own in limited opportunities against southpaw pitching, going 6 for 21 with two singles, two doubles, two homers and three walks, for a 1.027 OPS. This limited to sample doesn’t do anything for predicting what he will do in the future, but you don’t need to assume defeat if he faces a lefty.
Ríos has also taken on greater importance as an option at third base while Justin Turner continues to nurse his tender hamstring. If Turner needs time as the designated hitter, Ríos is emerging as a top option at an infield corner opposite Max Muncy.
We have not come today to bury Pederson, who has had multiple key hits for the Dodgers in past Octobers, including that indispensable homer off Max Scherzer (with one of my favorite reactions) in 2016. But consider a Dodger lineup that looks like this:
1) Mookie Betts, RF (148 OPS+)
2) Corey Seager, SS (161 OPS+)
3) Justin Turner, 3B (138 OPS+)
4) Max Muncy, 1B (100 OPS+)
5) Will Smith, C (162 OPS+)
6) Cody Bellinger, CF (112 OPS+)
7) Chris Taylor, 2B (135 OPS+)
8) Edwin Ríos, DH (138 OPS+)
9) A.J. Pollock, LF (122 OPS+)
Putting aside for the moment Muncy’s mixed bag of a 2020 season and whether he should be batting cleanup — especially if it’s possible that he might not be quite 100 percent physically — that is a heck of a top-to-bottom lineup. Consider Pederson a platoon partner for Pollock, sprinkle in Austin Barnes for his catching starts and a dash of Kiké Hernández if you’re insecure about Ríos against lefties, and that’s a well-dressed group you’re taking to the prom.