Sep 23, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers right fielderAlex Rios
(51) is congratulated by catcherA.J. Pierzynski
(12) after scoring against the Houston Astros during the sixth inning of a baseball game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Rios completed hitting for the cycle before scoring. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
Spring training is just around the corner for the Texas Rangers. With the apparent departure of Nelson Cruz, it seems that Alex Rios will probably be taking over full time in right field.
Nelson Cruz has mainly played that position since 2007. Since that time Nelson Cruz has played near or under the league average for fielding in the outfield. Of course, his most notable error came at the most crucial time in game 6 of the 2011 World Series. Sorry, had to bring that up. But, Nelson Cruz did bring a pretty sizable bat to the club. For his time with the Texas Rangers he batted .268/.327/.495/.823 with 170 doubles and 157 home runs over 8 seasons.
The negative for Nelson Cruz has been his 50 game suspension at the end of the 2013 season.
He was fortunate enough to return to the line up for game 163, but that was probably more a mistake on Ron Washington‘s part. In my opinion, Washington should have made Cruz sit on the bench and allow another player to play that was more game ready. As we now know, Cruz played poorly in game 163 and didn’t manage to reach base. It didn’t help that David Price was on his game that day and pretty much shut down the whole offense, that was steamrolling before that with 7 wins a row. Nelson Cruz is still a free-agent, but it is a long shot that he’ll return to the Texas Rangers. If he does return, it will probably be under a one year contract, enough for him to re-establish his value in the market. But again, it’s doubtful. After the Shin-Soo Choo signing, Jon Daniels talked to Nelson Cruz and thanked him for his service and all but closed the door on his return. In addition to that, Shin-Soo Choo now wears the number 17. If that doesn’t say you’re gone, I’m not sure what does. After Nelson Cruz went on suspension, the Texas Ranger brought on Alex Rios to take over his spot. Rios doesn’t have the power like Nelson Cruz does, but he does play right field quite well. Historically, Rios has always fielded very well and is consistently above the league average .988 while the league average is .986. Not much of a difference, but it is higher. Also, for his career, Rios has batted quite well with a .278/.324/.443/.767 batting average. For the Texas Rangers last year, he batted .280/.315/.457/.772 with 11 doubles, 2 triples and 6 home runs. If it wasn’t for Alex Rios, the month of September would have probably been much worse for the Rangers. Rios had the hottest bat in September and was instrumental down the streak to get them to game 163. One of his biggest moments in the season happened on September 23, when he hit for the cycle in 4 at-bats.
Looking towards the season, Alex Rios will again play in right field. More than likely he’ll bat 5th behind Adrian Beltre in the line up. If he is able to repeat what he’s done in the past, I would say he’s an upgrade over Nelson Cruz. Granted, you lose some power, but you get a better fielder and a more consistent hitter. If he’s able to get on base, he should be driving in some runs. And that should equate to more wins in 2014.