What To Expect From Alex Rios In 2013

Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE

How do you predict a player with an unpredictable flaw?

Alex Rios is a pain to deal with in fantasy baseball. He's great, or he's awful, and there's rarely little in between. You rarely want to miss out on him on draft day, because his upside is just so ridiculous that you'd be silly to flat-out skip out on the bidding. But, at the same time, maybe you've had a few of the poor seasons, and have given up on bothering. I've been there. And Rios was on the list of guys I just didn't want anymore.

Well, until this year, when I was able to deal for him mid-season, on a low-money contract that existed entirely because of his last bout of awfulness, back in 2011. And now, here I am, once again, curious if Alex Rios is the key to my future, rather than simply having the resolve to let someone else deal with that burden. That's just some background, though, for why we'll talk Rios today -- background I'm far from alone in. He's a player who needs to be figured out, lest anyone be caught overpaying for him come springtime.

Year Age Tm PA 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS+
2009 28 TOT 633 31 2 17 71 24 5 .247 .296 .395 79
2010 29 CHW 617 29 3 21 88 34 14 .284 .334 .457 111
2011 30 CHW 570 22 2 13 44 11 6 .227 .265 .348 63
2012 31 CHW 640 37 8 25 91 23 6 .304 .334 .516 124
9 Yrs 5335 289 49 143 627 185 61 .278 .324 .444 101
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/26/2012.

That's Rios over the last four seasons. He was decent enough with Toronto in 2009, but horrendous in his short time with Chicago, enough to mess with his overall line. In 2010, he rebounded, only to fall even more on his face in 2011. In 2012, as we've discussed, he's back! For now, anyway.

The reasons for why Rios struggle all come down to one thing: his swing. Rios sometimes lets his swing get a bit long, and his longer swing means less power, and more grounders. Grounders are a surefire way to hurt extra-base totals, and unless they find a hole, they aren't going to even be a single. That limits his times on base, which in turns limits stolen base opportunities and the chances he has to score runs... it's damaging to Rios' numbers when he can't consistently put the ball in the air.

This isn't a new issue. Rios originally struggled to reach his ceiling in Toronto because of the very same thing. When he was a prospect, his swing was considered too long, but he was working to shorten it. He did so, enough to get to the majors, but then the swing became long again. When it became compact once more, he started to drive the ball with far more authority, his grounder rates dropped, and his homer totals jumped. Until the next time the swing became too long, anyway.

So, here we are, following the 2012 season. His swing has been shortened once more, thanks to spending the off-season on it. The result? Rios produced against fastballs once more, since he could get his bat around on them. He ranked 11th at CBS among all fantasy players, after he was projected to land somewhere in the 400s following a season in which he was owned and started in roughly half of leagues. That's a massive difference, and a reminder of just how much he relies on his swing being perfect.

This kind of brings us back to the beginning, the key point of Rios. It's hard to tell just what he's doing to do, because it all comes down to whether his swing is screwed up or not. In the past, he's had problems every other year, or he's gone a few seasons without issue. Until 2013 is ongoing, we won't know for sure what kind of Rios season it will be. Remember that on draft day, if it comes down to you possibly reaching for him, or in a bidding war: you might land gold if you pay up, but you could also be regretting the decision very soon.

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