Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 3/7/13
The only thing consistent from year-to-year with Alex Rios is his inconsistency. In the last four years he’s had batting averages in the .240s, .260s, .280s, and .300s. I mean, seriously, it doesn’t get less consistent than that. In the last three years he’s had stolen base totals of 34 (career high), 11 (career low), and 23 (just right), and don’t even get me started on his peripheral stats. Rios was epically bad in 2011, batting .227 and driving in just 44 runs hitting primarily fifth and sixth for the White Sox. How do you drive in 88 runs one year and then drive in exactly half that the next year while batting near the heart of the lineup? Is that even possible? Well, apparently it was. Rios is a tantalizing player in fantasy, but his incredible up and down swings have scared off a lot of fantasy owners. The good news is that over the last three years he’s seen his line drive rate steadily rise to the point where it was actually league average last season, and our xBA equation says he had the batted ball profile of a .296 hitter so his .304 mark wasn’t fluky. The bad news is that the already walk-averse Rios is trending down a dangerous path. Since 2010 his walk rate has fallen from 6.7% (i.e. “I’ll walk if you insist on giving me four balls I can’t possibly hit”) to just 4.1% (i.e. “There’s no way in hell I’m taking that free pass”). That drop might not seem like much, just 2.6 percentage points, but in just two years Rios has seen his walk rate fall 38.8%. That 4.1% mark was good (bad?) for sixth-worst of the 143 batters who qualified for the batting title. As long as Rios is hitting line drives and legging out infield hits — he got a hit on 7.2% of his infield grounders, which was in the top-third of the league —  the lack of walks shouldn’t impact his batting average, but players that swing at everything tend to have wildly erratic line drive rates and high infield fly rates. That’s Rios in a nutshell, and that’s why he’s so inconsistent. At a Glance Strengths: R, RBI, SB Neutral: HR, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS Weaknesses: erratic Player Comparisons Best-case scenario: Carlos Gonzalez (COL) Likely scenario: B.J. Upton (ATL), Shin-Soo Choo (CIN), Yoenis Cespedes (OAK) Worst-case scenario: Ian Desmond (WAS) Alex Rios 2013 Fantasy Projection We have Rios 44th overall in our top 200 countdown, but when we released our draft guide on March 4 our updated projections ranked him 19th among outfielders and 41st overall. When you evaluate Rios, you see a player in a similar mold as B.J. Upton. Both of them derive their fantasy value from their 20/20 ability (or better), but year-to-year variance makes people too scared to jump in on them. However, while Upton has consistently failed to hit for anything remotely resembling a good batting average, Rios has actually been over .280 in two of the last three seasons. For what it’s worth, I’m targeted Rios before last season and I’m keeping him this season. We operate in an OBP league, where Rios’ value takes a hit, but I’m still excited at the prospect of owning a player that should come close to, or exceed, 20 homers and 20 steals with 80 runs and 80 RBI. Come to think of it, he’s a more boom-or-bust version of Shin-Soo Choo, and I love me some Choo.
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