Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In these days of self-promotion and 24- hour-a-day sports news, there are very few ballplayers who can sneak under the radar and still produce quality results, but Texas outfielder Alex Rios is one of those guys.
Well, he was, until we decided to shine a light on his production.
Over the past four seasons - three and a half with the Chicago White Sox and the last two months with Texas - Rios has averaged a .278 batting average with 19 home runs, 82 runs, 76 RBI and 28 steals.
None of these numbers, by themselves, shout "look at me," but combined they tell a story of a fantasy asset that can help any lineup in almost every offensive category.
Last season, he posted a .278 average with 18 homers, 83 runs, 81 RBI and 42 steals. Compared to the four base stealers who managed more thefts, none came close to his home run power.
We're predicting a similar effort in 2014, but he'll be in a much better offensive lineup.
The White Sox were one of the worst offenses in 2013, scoring just 3.7 runs per game last season. The only team they were better than was the Miami Marlins.
Rios joined the Rangers in August and helped them finish seventh-best at nearly 4.5 runs per game. Then in the offseason, Texas signed Shin-Soo Choo and traded for Prince Fielder (giving up Ian Kinsler) and letting "PED violator" Nelson Cruz go in free agency.
We judge the 2014 Texas lineup to be an improved group. The Rangers have power, speed, youth and veteran leadership.
Rios is expected to bat fifth behind Fielder and cleanup man Adrian Beltre. With quality on-base guys at the top of the lineup in Choo and Elvis Andrus, Rios should see plenty of RBI opportunities this season and we are predicting he'll cash in with a career-high RBI total.
In Rios' 47 games at the end of last season with Texas, he produced better numbers than in Chicago. Extrapolated out to a full season in Arlington, our 2014 projections have him batting .281 with 83 runs, 20 homers, 93 RBI, 48 steals and a 0.782 OPS.
His 2013 season was most similar to Milwaukee center fielder Carlos Gomez (.284, 24 HRs, 80 runs, 73 RBI, 40 SB). Gomez shot out of the gate last season, made a number highlight-show catches in center and made his first All-Star team, so fantasy owners and fans have heard his name frequently. He's currently being selected at No. 22 in Yahoo drafts.
Meanwhile, Rios has been less visible to the public. He hasn't made an All- Star team since 2007 and is going at No. 49. Be smart and wait two rounds for the better value.
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