Following a career-year in 2012, Alex Rios is one of the only White Sox regulars off to a good start in April. With his hot start, Rios is looking to reverse his trend of failing to put together back-to-back good seasons in a White Sox uniform.

To illustrate this point, let’s examine Rios’ statistics over the last several years.

As a Toronto Blue Jay:

2008 - .291 AVG|15 HR|79 RBI|91 R|32 SB

As a Toronto Blue Jay and Chicago White Sox:

2009 - .247 AVG|17 HR|71 RBI|63 R|24 SB

As a Chicago White Sox:

2010 - .284 AVG|21 HR|88 RBI|89 R|34 SB

2011 - .227 AVG|13 HR|44 RBI|64 R|11 SB

2012 - .304 AVG|25 HR|91 RBI|93 R|23 SB

In 2008, Rios had a fine season with the Blue Jays by showcasing his five-tool potential. In 2009, Rios was not as effective, leading the Blue Jays to place him on waivers following the July 31st trading deadline. That August, former general manager Kenny Williams put in a claim for the struggling outfielder. During that season, the White Sox were in a divisional race with the Detroit Tigers, and many baseball experts believed that Williams had put the claim on Rios solely to block the Tigers from acquiring Rios. Since the White Sox were awarded the claim, the thought was that the Blue Jays and White Sox would try to work out a trade given Rios’ talent. If that was the case, Williams would have likely exercised his option of rejecting a trade offer, thus not acquiring Rios or his large contract. However, the Blue Jays opted to simply “give away” the rights and contract of Rios to the White Sox, leaving the Sox to pick up the remaining tab of at least $61.6 million. If the White Sox pick-up the 2015 option, the deal would spill to just over $75 million.

So, as you can see, Kenny Williams took a huge risk when he put in a waiver claim for Rios. Whether or not he intended to “block” the Tigers will never be proven, but regardless of what happened, the White Sox did end up with a quality player.

I say ended up, because the outlook on Rios was very bleak during his short stint on the South Side in 2009. In 41 games, Rios hit a putrid .199, with 3 HR, 9 RBI, 11 R, and 5 SB. Those numbers don’t really reflect the production that you would expect from a $10-12 million dollar outfielder, so naturally White Sox fans were not pleased with their new player. Rios was showered with boos for the rest of the year, and he looked like a total bust.

In 2010, things would quickly change. Rios rebounded to hit .284, with 21 HR, 88 RBI, 89 R, and 34 SB. I will be the first to admit that I was not happy with Rios in 2009, but he quickly became one of my favorite players on the team during his first full season in a White Sox uniform. With the solid season under his belt, Rios was starting to look like a potential steal for Kenny Williams.

In 2011, Rios fell flat on his face. He hit just .227, with 13 HR, 44 RBI, 64 R, and 11 SB. As expected, most White Sox fans got on his case again. Maybe I was putting too much stock into his 2010 season, but I was hopeful that he could have a bounce-back campaign in 2012. That would prove to be the case, as Rios had arguably the best year of his career last season.

In 2012, Rios hit .304, with 25 HR, 91 RBI, 93 R, and 23 SB. The numbers that Rios posted in both 2010 and 2012 were the type of production that the White Sox thought they were getting when they acquire Rios.

Much of Rios’ success in 2012 should be attributed to a change in his approach to the plate. In 2012, Rios changed his batting stance to a more “up-right” position as opposed to hitting from a “crouch”. This has allowed for Rios to have less movement in his body as he prepares to swing, and it has also allowed him to use his 6 foot 5 inch frame to the fullest potential. By standing tall, Rios is able to extend his arms when he swings, thus generating more power and back-spin on the baseball. All of that has led to a slight up-tick in power and a higher batting average due to a more consistent and level swing.

With two poor seasons in 2009 and 2011, followed by two very solid seasons in 2010 and 2012, many White Sox fans were left wondering what to expect from Rios heading into the 2013 season. If people had any doubts on whether or not Rios could repeat his performance from last season, then those concerns should now be gone. Rios has silenced any remaining critics by batting .303 with 6 HR, 11 RBI, 12 R, and 3 SB. To put those numbers into context, Rios is on-pace to hit .303 with 46 HR, 84 RBI, 92 R, and 23 SB. Now, obviously the home run pace will not continue, but his batting average, run production, and stolen bases are right in line with his potential upside. Given that, the White Sox should be very pleased with how the wavier claim on Rios turned out. After an ugly start to the Rios era in 2009, and a poor 2011, Rios has firmly established himself as the best all-around player on the White Sox roster, as well as being one of the better outfielders in the American League.

-Eric Tichelbaut

Follow me on Twitter @etichel07