In his minor league career, Yacksel Rios has pitched in a total of 97 games. In 37 of those games, he's been a starter, while he's come out of the bullpen in the other 60 games. Numbers-wise, he's pitched better out of the bullpen, but with the continuing development of his secondary pitches and the fact that he has shown increasing velocity on his fastball, which he can maintain throughout a game, it's going to be tempting to see what he can do as a starter.
This past season, Rios really started to put things together. He started the year with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and thanks to continued work on his mechanics, he was consistently in the mid-90s by the end of the season at Clearwater. His slider, which has always shown signs of being a plus pitch for him also came along nicely in 2015 and is now a legitimate go-to pitch for Rios. By the end of the season, the slider was generally around 80 miles per hour or just a tick above. Lagging behind, but also showing some positive signs, is a change-up, which may determine whether Rios sticks in the rotation or in the bullpen. Without a solid third pitch, he's likely going to work out of the pen.
So, why did Rios make such strides in 2015? He's starting to find comfort in his delivery and is able to repeat it much more readily than he has in the past. Rios would get sloppy later in starts as he started to wear down, but this past season, he showed more stamina and was able to maintain the delivery deeper into games and not leave as many balls up in the zone.
Still just 22-years old, there is still more development that Rios can make. The big question mark is the change-up, which will help to determine his future. If he does wind up in the bullpen, it's not a failure by any means. Let's face it, today's game needs quality relievers and Rios has enough of an artillery to likely fit into being a quality back-end reliever as he continues to move through the Phillies system. While he's learned a lot and gotten much better, there's even more progress that Rios can make and he might be able to add even just a bit more velocity to his fastball. For right now though, he is okay with the velocity, because he gets decent movement on the pitch and just has to continue having discipline in his mechanics to keep it down in the zone. Location will likely be more important for Rios on the fastball than will velocity.
Whether it's in the rotation or the bullpen, the Phillies are getting to the point with Rios where they have to decide which way they're going to go with him. Right now, the system has a number of quality starters in the system, so Rios may wind up pitching in relief almost by default. His weapons are more suited to relieving right now, but with consistent starts, he could work his way into the picture as a starter. Long-term, the difference may be whether the Phillies want Rios to become an average back-end starter or a really good back-end bullpen guy.
Yacksel Rios - career stats
|Minors (5 seasons)||19||13||3.89||97||37||2||284.1||281||146||123||17||105||3||212||21||6||25||1232||1.358||8.9||0.5||3.3||6.7||2.02|