Boston Red Sox v Chicago White Sox

The 2013 is full of terrific redemption stories, most of them residing on the New York Yankees. Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells are putting together seasons many refused to believe they still had in them.

Vernon Well, in particular, looks like a new man. A few changes to his swing and setup have the former Blue Jays center fielder swinging like it’s 2006. Or 2010. Maybe 2003. One of those odd years in which Vernon Wells is good, I can’t tell which one.

While Vernon Wells might steal all the headlines with his multi-positional verstality and (dead cat) bounce back to relevance, he isn’t the only recovering Blue Jays outfielder putting together a solid first half in 2013. Wells’ old outfield mate Alex Rios is swinging the bat better than just about any outfielder in baseball, actually.

How good has Alex Rios been in 2013? Good enough to bust out this old trick!

  1. .288/.345/.513, 10 HR, 4 SB, 14 BB, 24 K
  2. .278/.363/.517, 8 HR, 8 SB, 23 BB, 39 K
  3. .301/.366/.554, 10 HR, 8 SB, 17 BB, 28 K

Just for fun, A is Vernon Wells, B is Mike Trout, C is Alex Rios. Alex Rios! Only three players in baseball have hit eight home runs with eight stolen bases. Trout, Rios, Carlos Gonzalez. Again I say it: Alex Rios!

The walk total sort of stands out to me, as Alex Rios came to the plate 640 times last season and walked 26 times. Total. Here he is in the middle of May just nine behind that total. It’s like a whole new Rios!

Alex Rios has never been afraid to tinker with his swing. Even though he had a solid/great season in 2012 (120 wRC+, 25 home runs, 4 fWAR), he made some pretty evident swing changes for the 2013 season.

Behold a long ball from Chicago off Felix Hernandez from this April.

Now compare that clip to this one from May 2012.

If we freeze the vidoes just before the pitchers release, we can see Alex Rios appears much more upright and erect this year compared to last.

alex rios 2013

Get up. Stand up.

alex rios 2012

It isn’t unusual for a notorious tinkerer to make changes in his swing as he gets comfortably into his 30s. It is less common for a hitter to change his tendencies rather dramatically, as Rios has thus far in 2013. Swinging a fewer pitches, chasing few pitchers and simply making pitchers throw him strikes. His contact rates are nearly identical but he simply won’t chase. It’s somewhat remarkable.

With another season plus an option left on his contract, the career totals for Alex Rios are going to start looking pretty nice. Maybe he wasn’t the superstar Blue Jays fans wished on, but he should comfortably eclipse 200 home runs, 200 steals and 30 Wins Above Replacement when his playing days are done. Tough for anybody to do, first round pick or otherwise.

Expecations and money and off-field incidents forever cloud the way we view baseball players. Right now, Alex Rios looks like a good-to-very good outfielder that was never as good as some fans wanted him to be. Too bad for Blue Jays fans who missed out and too bad for White Sox fans who only remember his very (very) bad 2011.