While Adam Dunn was struggling through his historically bad 2011 season on the White Sox, teammate Alex Rios was putting together a fairly disastrous season of his own. Overall, he batted .227 with just 13 homers and 11 steals—a far cry from the 21 homers and 34 steals of the year prior. Many fantasy owners gave up on him as a result, but Rios wasn’t done yet, rebounding to hit .304 with 25 home runs and 23 steals in 2012. Add in just over 90 runs and RBI and you get the 12th most valuable line as ranked by our PFM.
It was a spectacular comeback for Rios, but it was not unprecedented, considering he has produced similar lines in the past. Entering what will be his age-32 season, people remain fairly skeptical of Rios. He doesn’t stand out in any particular stat category, reinforcing the notion that he’s a small decline away from becoming a highly replaceable outfielder. Aiding his value was the sheer number of games he played (157), and since injuries become more likely for a soon-to-be 32 year old, he likely won’t be boosted by high run and RBI totals.
This logic will shape some people’s opinion of Rios in 2013, but I prefer to look at things in another way. Sure, he doesn’t dominate any one category, but his across-the-board skillset means if his skills decline in one area, he can still help out in others. If he loses a step and only steals 10 bases or runs into poor balls-in-play luck and his average drops some, he can still hit 25 bombs. Sure, it’s fair to expect him to miss a few more games next year, but if you’re going to expect good health from a player, who better than from one who hasn’t played fewer than 145 games in the last six years?
With that said, I still won’t put Rios in the top 60 given the depth in outfielders and small regression that is likely in games played and batting average. Still, Rios is a relatively safe player that is a fine pick somewhere in the 60-80 range.
This offseason, Ross parlayed some 2011 postseason heroics and a decent offensive 2012 season in a favorable hitting environment into a three-year deal worth $26 million with Arizona. Normally, multi-year free agent signees making over $8 million annually have fairly guaranteed playing time, but for Ross, this is not the case. Ross is joining an outfield bunch that includes established major leaguers Justin Upton, Jason Kubel, and Gerardo Parra plus two prospects in Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock that we saw a bit of in 2012 and are likely to receive more at-bats this year. With only so many at-bats to go around, it’s hard to imagine that Ross will be an everyday player the whole year.
It certainly doesn’t help his case that Ross has a noted platoon split of around .200-.300 points of OPS every year (sans an anomalous 2011). With this information, it’s easy to foresee Ross’ at-bats against right-handers curtailed to an extent. Even though a trade of Kubel or Upton would free up the playing time, and even though Chase Field is still a noted hitter’s park, Ross simply does not possess the talent to be considered a top-200 player. His 20-plus home run ability is well-received, but I’d be surprised if he hits .267 again without the Green Monster to bang doubles off. His runs and RBI totals are also likely to suffer, assuming he doesn’t bat clean-up for 40 games like he did last year in Boston.
Power is scarce late in drafts, but Ross isn’t worth taking before 200 other players given his playing time concerns and lack of contributions elsewhere.
Similar to Rios, Cuddyer is an aging vet whose inability to stand out in one particular category results in the inability to stand out in most people’s minds as a player to draft or spend that extra auction dollar on. In 2012, Cuddyer batted .260 with 16 homers and eight steals. Nothing special, but it’s important to note he essentially missed all of August and September with an oblique strain that he re-aggravated. Give him an extra 40-50 games played, and now he’s hitting closer to 25 home runs with 12 steals.
As a .260-.270 hitter, admittedly there is still no way to call Cuddyer a top 100 player. He is slated to bat fifth behind Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, however, which should prove a boon to his RBI total. He’s been a consistent producer his whole career, and there is no better place to bat than Coors. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to retain his MI eligibility last season, severely hampering his value. Regardless, my guess is that there will be plenty of drafts where Cuddyer falls outside the top-200—something you shouldn’t let happen.