Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw breaks down the five baseball players who have been making a huge fantasy impact over the past two weeks.
5) Alex Rios, OF, White Sox
Rios struggled with the White Sox in 2011, batting just .227. However, he has bounced back this season with a .316 AVG, 18 HR and 67 RBI. In the past two weeks alone, he hit .353 with 14 runs, five home runs, 15 RBI and one stolen base. He is a five-tool talent and his hot streak could continue, especially considering that he plays at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. Be aware, however, that Rios is known for his inconsistency.
4) Adam LaRoche, 1B, Nationals
Like Rios, LaRoche has struggled with inconsistency. Last year was a disaster for him, as he only played in 43 games and had just a .172 average. He is known for getting hot in the second half of the season and he is living up to that right now. In the past two weeks, LaRoche has a .429 average, 10 runs, seven home runs and 14 RBI.
3) Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers
Gomez is a solid outfielder defensively but is not known for his offense. He hasn’t been able to play every day in the past but he’s been given a chance in Milwaukee and is putting up huge numbers. Over the last two weeks, Gomez is batting .348 with 14 runs, four home runs, 10 RBI and six stolen bases. At 26 years old, he could get a chance to play full time next season.
2) Drew Stubbs, OF, Reds
Stubbs is known to be unpredictable at the plate. He steals a lot of bases and has some power but he kills your batting average. His currently has a .239 season average, but in the last two weeks, he has a .362 average with 17 runs, four homers, 11 RBI and five steals. Stubbs is a streaky hitter, so ride out this hot streak while you can.
1) Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels
Pujols had a slow start to the season but he’s been on fire recently, and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Angels. Over the past two weeks, he has a .365 average, 11 runs, seven home runs, 19 RBI and two stolen bases.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
By Tommy Rancel //
Biggest Surprise: Alex Rios
Following last season’s mid-summer waiver claim by the White Sox, Rios hit just .199/.229/.301 for his new club for the rest of 2009. However, the 29-year-old rebounded to post numbers above his career average across the board in 2010. His .284/.334/.457 slash line slightly bests his career .281/.331/.446. More importantly from a fantasy perspective, he regained his great power/speed combo, smashing 21 home runs while stealing 34 bases. He also crossed the plate 89 times and added 88 RBI. With 2009 looking like the outlier, expect numbers close to career averages again in 2011.
Biggest Bust: Gordon Beckham
Beckham impressed in his first 400 major league plate appearances by hitting .270/.347/.460 as a rookie second baseman. In nearly 500 PA this year, he hit just .252/.317/.378. His home runs dropped from 14 to nine and his RBI from 63 down to 49 – despite playing in 28 more games. There’s nothing that screams fluke in either season, which leaves Beckham’s owners scratching their heads moving forward. If he’s valued as a .250 hitter with light power at the draft table next year, though, he’s well worth grabbing at that price.
2011 Keeper Alert: Dayan Viciedo
A Cuban defector, Viciedo showed some of the power the White Sox hoped to see when they signed him. After hitting 20 home runs in 86 games at the Triple-A level, the 21-year-old was promoted to the big leagues. There, he it .308/.321/.519 with five home runs in just 106 PA. His average is fueled by a rather unsustainable BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and his plate discipline leaves much to be desired (two walks and 25 strikeouts). But with plus power at the hot corner, the Chicago third baseman of the future is one to keep.
2011 Regression Alert: Paul Konerko
Konerko has been one of the most underrated hitters of the past few seasons, but pardon me for being a little wary of a 34-year-old posting a career-best .977 OPS. While playing in one of baseball’s home run havens, nearly 20% of Konerko’s flyballs hit went over the wall. In addition to a favorable home run rate, his BABIP .326 was well above his career .285 level. A free agent this off-season, Konerko’s next destination is unknown. But it is very unlikely his OPS approaches 1.000 again next year. Don’t overbid.
For more on Alex Rios and the Chicago White Sox lineup, check Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
- Alex Rios: 15 HR, 91 R, 79 RBI, 32 SB, and a .291 BA
- Matt Kemp: 18 HR, 93 R, 76 RBI, 35 SB, and a .290 BA
By Tommy Rancel
For the first five years of his career, Alex Rios was a productive hitter. From 2004 to 2008, he averaged .288/.338/.455 (AVG/OBP/SLG). But after a slow start in 2009, he was placed on waivers by Toronto, then given away to the White Sox for no compensation other than the amputation of his bloated contract. Overall in 2009, he hit just .247/.296/.395. His batting average was just .199 after moving to Chicago.
Despite the dip in those slash numbers (AVG/OBP/SLG), Rios still hit 17 home runs and stole 24 bases, providing continued value for fantasy owners.
Obviously, the most alarming loss for Rios came in batting average. In 2006-2008, his batting average was .297. His 2009 average of .247 represents a 50-point drop. For a speedy player who was only 28 years old, this was odd.
Sure enough, when we look at his batted ball data from last season — notably batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and his percentage of line drives hit (LD%) — we see some outlier numbers.
Thanks to his speed and ability to hit line drives (more on that in a minute), Rios has a slightly elevated career BABIP of .319. The league average is around .300. Last season, his BABIP dropped to .273.
Digging a little deeper, Rios has maintained a career LD% of 19.8%. In 2009, that number dropped to 16.4%.
Going even deeper into the numbers, Rios saw a tremendous drop in LD% against right-handed pitching (RHP). In his career, Rios owns a LD% against RHP of 19.8%; in 2009, that number sank to 14.7%. This is significant because Rios faced a right-hander 72% of the time last year.
Some studies, like the one here, suggest career BABIP is the best predictor of a player’s BABIP going forward. If this is the case for Rios, expect a healthy regression in batting average, and on-base percentage, towards career marks near .280 and .330.
After hitting 24 home runs in 2007, many expected Rios to become a 30/30 player; however, he is not that type of hitter. A big chunk of the balls he hits into play are line drives or groundballs (42.8% career groundball rate). This leaves little room for fly balls (37.4% career fly ball rate). Because of this, he’s averaged 19 home runs over the past three years; Bloomberg Sports projects a modest 18 homers in 2010, despite the homer-friendly climate of U.S. Cellular Field.
Meanwhile, Rios set a career-high in steals with 32 in 2008, followed by 24 more last season. Over the past three years, his success on stolen base attempts is a strong 81% (56/69). Bloomberg Sports projects 26 steals for Rios in 2010.
Although he had a down season in 2009, Rios narrowly slides into the top 100 players ranked by Bloomberg Sports; his B-Rank is exactly 100. His average draft position (ADP) is just 146.
Assuming a mid-round draft slot in an averaged size (12-14 team) mixed league, you could start your outfield with a combination like Ryan Braun, Bobby Abreu, and Rios. This trio would give you a well-rounded, durable outfield, despite using just one premium draft selection. All three players have averaged at least 620 plate appearances in the past three seasons, and provide a blend of average, (decent) power, and speed.
If we tweak the 30/30 projections on Rios down to 20/20, and add in the potential for batting average regression, we are looking at a productive third or fourth outfielder in many mixed leagues. Target him with other bounceback candidates in the middle of your draft.
For more on sleepers like Alex Rios, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.