Gabriel Rincones Jr., the Philadelphia Phillies No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline, just completed his first season in professional baseball. Still just 22 years old, is already making plans to become a household name that fans will remember.
The Phillies picked Rincones in the third round of the 2022 Draft, and the organization has high hopes for his power bat after he showed exceptional power in college. He ranked "... among the leaders in average exit velocity and 90th percentile exit velocity," per Baseball America (subscription required), who has the 6-foot-3 outfielder ranked as the Phillies' No. 10 prospect.
No joke. Rincones hit .346 with a 1.110 OPS in his one year at Florida Atlantic. He swatted 19 home runs and had 69 RBI in 58 games (237 at-bats).
Rincones split his 2023 season between Low-A Clearwater and High-A Jersey Shore before finishing his year at the Arizona Fall League (AFL).
After debuting with a .264/.388/.444 slash line, five home runs, 21 RBI, 24 stolen bases, and a 130 wRC+ in 48 games with the Low-A Threshers, Rincones made the move up to the High-A BlueClaws. He played in 72 contests there, hitting 10 home runs with 39 RBI and eight stolen bases, but his batting average sunk to .238, and his OPS suffered, dropping to .742 from .832.
While it may have been an acceptable season, considering it was the youngster's first in pro ball, in a recent interview on MLB Network Radio, Rincones Jr. didn't beat around the bush, saying he holds himself to a higher standard and has to play better.
"I can have a respectable season in someone else's eyes," Rincones said. "But, if it's not the standard that I want, the standard that the fans and what the [organization] expects of me to be a household name ... it's not really going to be good enough, you know, so I just got to be better, that's all."
MLB Pipeline says Rincones "... has the chance to be solid at the plate with potentially plus power, using an advanced approach to drive the ball to all fields."
Rincones got a start on showing what he can do with the bat in Arizona
The son of a former Major League pitcher, Rincones has a clear vision of how he wants his young career to look.
"I mean, [a] .240 average isn't really going to be something that's going to be talked about for years," he said. "And that's what I'm trying to look for, seasons that are good enough to be remembered."
Rincones certainly made headway toward that goal in October when he headed to Arizona to compete in the AFL against some of the top minor league talent.
"For me, I try to hustle and play the game as hard as I can, whatever I can do," Rincones said. "I'm trying to cover every facet of the game. Defense, be good on defense. When I get the chance to run, not be scared and just pull the trigger. Same at the plate. If I need to draw my walk, get my hit, hit a homer, whatever the game's open to take, I'm looking to grab it."
The left-handed hitting Rincones indeed managed to show off his game in the desert. While playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions, he hit .293 and had the 16th-highest OPS at .889. He hit two home runs and added six doubles and a triple while driving in 14 runs in 82 at-bats across 22 games.
He wasn't scared to pull the trigger on the bases either, swiping 15 bags in 17 attempts.
And he definitely wasn't afraid to take a walk. His approach at the plate paid off in his 101 AFL plate appearances. He struck out 27.7 percent of the time — which was higher than his regular season 24.8 percent rate at High-A — but he walked at an impressive 16.8 percent clip. That was up from a 10.3 percent walk rate with the BlueClaws.
Rincones' defense will be his hurdle
Rincones played corner outfield this season and found some at-bats as the designated hitter at both levels. But as he told MLB Network Radio, he didn't enjoy his DH duties because he finds it more challenging to lock in like he can when he plays the field.
From the sounds of things, he might want to start to learn to like hitting in the DH spot. Both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America think that he'll be stuck in a corner outfield position, and the organization will keep him there as long as possible, but due to his below-average defense and below-average arm, he'll eventually find himself as a DH.
Luckily, Rincones' bat shows promise that he can be "... one of the best hitters in the system ..." per MLB Pipeline.
If Rincones wants to become a household name, there's a path for him. If he looks at the big league team, there are a couple of players whose games should give him hope that one day, he'll be patrolling the corner outfield at Citizens Bank Park.
Despite their less-than-ideal defensive metrics, Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos have hit more than enough in their careers to land corner outfielder jobs in the Majors.
Only one season into his pro career, Rincones still has a lot of development ahead of him, but his bat should carry him through the system. Baseball America says that Rincones "... has one of the best combinations of hit tools and power in the system."
Based on his history, it's hard to bet against the kid who moved to Scotland as a six-year-old, didn't play baseball for six years, lived with family in Venezuela at age 12, and lived with an aunt in Florida so he could attend high school and play baseball.
As Rincones told the PA news agency after he was drafted: "I'm very stubborn. You tell me I can't do something, I guarantee you I'm going to eventually do it."