Robin Ventura is starting to set up his preferences for the Chicago White Sox starters. One of the concerns for arrangements is in the outfield.
While Ventura hasn't set the fielding arrangements in stone yet, he has an inclination toward putting Rios in right field based on Rios' best performances. Ventura said, "[Rios] had his best years in right field. There's a comfort in that and knowing he can do it. You put all those things together and see what's best for us instead of just one person."
Ventura might be onto something with that logic. Rios predominantly played right field while with the Toronto Blue Jays. The one year in which he played fewer than 80 percent of games in right field in Toronto (2008) saw his home-run figure fall by nine (to 15 from 24 in 2007) and saw his OPS drop by 54 points (to .798 from .852 in 2007).
In his time with the White Sox, Rios has played in center field the vast majority of the time, with Carlos Quentin in right field. Since Quentin has been traded to the San Diego Padres, right field is up for grabs.
Rios also fielded better in right field than in center field. He had a .990 fielding rate with 14 errors in 720 games in right field. In 426 games playing center field, Rios has a .986 fielding rate and 15 errors.
However, that may not explain his sharp drop in production in 2011. His fielding percentage went up five points in 2011 while his OPS went down 178 points. That drop seemed more a study in moping than one in discomfort.
Besides, the idea of comfort in relation to playing level seems to be an old-time baseball idea being perpetuated by Ventura.
Ventura might believe that putting Rios in his natural position while putting Viciedo, the less experienced player, in left field would be best for the club.
However, one must first see whether Rios is better than Viciedo while defending right field. Rios had a .981 fielding rate with five errors and 10 assists in 2007, his last full season starting in right field. Viciedo had a perfect fielding percentage, along with two assists in 21 games last season.
While it's a small sample size, the indication is that Viciedo is a better fielder for right than Rios. Viciedo has a better arm, which would make him better suited for playing in right field. Perhaps Rios could excel in left field, the easiest outfield position to defend, even though he's only played one game there.
For Rios to turn things around offensively, the object has less to do with being in his favorite outfield position than anything else. Rios needs to fix things at the plate to succeed at the plate. He needs to figure out how to select pitches again, not select his place in the field.