Sports offers stories of redemption, rebirth, survival, and opportunity. Unlike any other profession, becoming a professional athlete can lift one from the depths of poverty to the heights of fame and fortune. Never is that more apparent than in baseball. Being good with a bat, running fast and tracking down balls, or throwing a devastating fastball could be the ticket some young boy needs to move his family from nothing to a world where a better life is available for the taking. Such is the story of Rymer Liriano.
The Dominican Republic is a place so fraught with danger, the United States State Department issues numerous travel warnings every year for the country. It’s an area in which many young baseball players feel it necessary to lie about their ages in an attempt to increase their stock among major league teams. Some even adopt false identities. They do so in order to escape. For Liriano, though, it’s just home.
The 21-year old Padres outfield prospect was born in Santo Domingo, the largest city in the Dominican Republic. There, Liriano refined his skills as a teenager working toward a big league dream. At 13, he began working with a scout/trainer in the area. He tried out for numerous major league teams, his skills on display as if this were simply an attempt at making the varsity high school team. But this meant so much more. Not only was Liriano trying out for a career that would take him to the United States, but he was fighting for the financial security he and his family needed.
With the interest of at least six major league teams, Liriano chose the team with the highest signing bonus offer. That team was the San Diego Padres. So at 16, Liriano and his family were $300,000 richer, and he was guaranteed a spot with at least the rookie league team. First, Liriano would be given a chance to perform at the team’s new academy located in the Dominican Republic.
The academy gave Liriano a chance to hone his skills during the summer of 2008. It prepared him to take on the ever- improving talent he would see as he moved through the organization. That summer in 2008 prepared him for the Arizona Rookie League. The AZL is not a place players go to play under the watchful eyes of thousands of fans. No, this level of rookie ball offers few fans but many opportunities. Performing well will lead to a promotion to Single-A ball, the first step in truly professional baseball.
Liriano excelled through the AZL and earned a promotion to the low-A team in Eugene, Oregon. There, Liriano would get his first glimpse at traveling baseball. Liriano played 43 games for Eugene before his next promotion, this time to Fort Wayne, Indiana. While he struggled in his 50 games with the Tin Caps, he was given the chance to finish things up in high-A ball with the Lake Elsinore Storm.
To start 2011, Liriano was given another shot at high-A with Lake Elsinore He struggled mightily as he seems to do right after promotions. He soon found himself back with Fort Wayne, where he tore the league up. He hit to the tune of .319/.383/.499 with Fort Wayne. It may be just an adjustment period that causes Liriano to struggle initially with promotions, but the skills are clearly there.
Prior to this upcoming season, Baseball America listed Liriano as the 49th best prospect. MLB.com listed him 60th. And Seedlings to Stars listed him 48th. That’s pretty high praise from three respected prospect evaluation sites.
Liriano will likely start back with Lake Elsinore this season, but only he can limit himself in the promotion department. He needs to refine his skills, but it would not be surprising to see him make it to Double-A San Antonio this season and make it all the way to San Diego by 2013.
From his humble start as a teenager in the Dominican Republic, Liriano has already done very well for himself. He is a couple of good seasons from achieving his dream. As a major league player, Liriano should have no trouble providing that which was rare back home; Stability.
For more coverage of prospects and minor league action, check out Seedlings to Stars.