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Kenny Williams' talk of Alejandro De Aza leading off doesn't exactly cement Rios getting an opportunity to erase his putrid 2011. Rios was benched for De Aza last summer, and Chicago is now dealing with a logjam in the outfield. Still, Paul Kinzer, Rios' agent, is talking redemption for his client.
Though you wouldn't think it from his erratic seasonal batting averages, Rios makes frequent contact and posted his career-high rate of 86.7 percent (per Fangraphs) in 2011. His swing-and-miss percentage (6.0) from last year was also the lowest on his docket. Too bad his lack of walks limits his chances to swipe bags. He also swung at and connected on more outside-the-zone offerings than ever before in his most recent disaster. Throw in a chronic case of toe soreness that resurfaced, and it's no wonder his thump was sapped and he produced his highest seasonal infield fly-ball percentage.
That crippling mix fueled his basement-level .237 BABIP, and his tendency to slip in such manners should remind you to limit your expectations for a rebound there. The upside would swell, however, if Rios can consistently square the ball as well as he did after changing the hand positioning in his swing late last year. He logged a five-homer September (.307/.341/.533) and made harder contact over the final two months.
New manager Robin Ventura has the bat prowess to help the soon-to-be 31-year-old. First-year stick coach Jeff Manto was Chicago's recent minor league hitting coordinator and has some knowledge of their offensive woes; this organizational continuity could help Rios carry over his improvements, especially if he does extensive camp work like he did before his excellent 2010.
With last year's stat line and playing-time concerns, Rios will occupy the discount rack in most formats. Anyone with proven 20-20 capability and 30-30 upside, even with a shaky profile like his, deserves attention at the right price. He was overvalued in many fantasy circles before 2011; now he could be a steal, like he was before his perfect storm in the previous season. As was the case in 2010, taking the chance on a rebound won't cripple your draft strategy.
Fowler, like pre-2011 Kemp, is a fine-tuned athlete who's still trying to harness his baseball acumen. Kemp's switch flipped in epic form. Fowler's "Aha!" season could be next. His second-half tear came after he added a leg kick to his swing during another exile to Triple-A Colorado Springs last summer. His liner rate shot up while he teased his notable upside.
He's still not extracting as much from the left side of the plate as he does the right, but he's improving, and Fowler's skills already project for high batting averages. Fowler's 10 steals over the final three months hint at 30-steal campaigns to come. There's still power hidden in Fowler, who'll turn 26 in March, though probably not much more than 10 homers in a season for the near future.
But the all-around components exist, and if he can emulate Kemp's rounding-out of skills, there's an alluring profit opportunity from this middle-tier outfielder that you could sneak past your draft mates.
Minny's new Michael Cuddyer? Doumit's multi-positional talents could fill many needs for the Twins: spelling Joe Mauer behind the dish, serving as first base insurance for Justin Morneau (concussion, wrist, knee) and playing outfield on occasion.
Doumit, who'll be 31 in April, is in his own right no bastion of health, but when he plays, he boasts 20-homer pop. His .303-8-30 campaign in 218 at-bats with the Pittsburgh Pirates (who also have a pitcher-friendly home park) harkened back to his elite 2008.
The likelihood Doumit will piece together plate appearances all over the field makes him a relatively alluring target among the midrange and low-end No. 2 mixed catcher pool, with upside for more.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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