For Rangers fans, Rougned Odor is eye candy. Even though he is not the most respected player in the league, everyone can agree that Odor is the real deal (except for maybe Jose Bautista). I was blessed enough to get an opportunity to talk to him face-to-face after his rookie season, and he is a great man as well as a player. He was very sincere and honest, and he’s a great inspiration to young players. His personality is identical to his talent. So here is my prediction, and you can quote me on this. Rougned Odor will be the best second baseman in baseball, and here’s why.
1. He has an excellent plate approach. Although his batting average hasn’t been the best over his last 2 seasons (still above the Mendoza line at .265), he launched 33 round trippers last year, which helped translate into 88 RBIs in 150 games. That’s impressive for a hitter in his age 22 season. Most of the reason for his success in the hitting department is his change of approach at the plate. He has started to lean back and swing under the ball much more in 2016, which led to a 6.2 degree increase in his launch angle, and a 96.1 MPH exit velocity average on batted balls in the air (per Bleacher Report). He is hitting the ball harder and higher than he was and that, in addition to his raw power, has led to his increased success at the plate.
2. He can flash the leather. Although Odor’s value lies mostly on the offensive side, his defense can certainly keep up. There are some insanely detailed stats that we can look into to discuss why his glove will be better, but I think we can let the 4.5 WAR, and the tape, speak for itself. He is consistently on the SportsCenter top 10, along with his double-play counterpart Elvis Andrus, so he’s got that going for him. In all seriousness, his glove can keep pace with his offensive capabilities.
3. He is an aggressive and productive baserunner. On the surface, we can see that he swiped 14 bags on 21 attempts in 2016. If he is taking the bag 2/3rds of the time, that’s a solid ratio to gamble on. However, what is interesting to me is the numbers beyond the surface. Out of 632 plate appearances in 2016, he hit into only 6 double plays. He also went from 1st to third on base hits over 61% of the time. He had 304 total bases last season. All these are little things that add up to a better product at the top of the lineup, and often is a game-changer in offensive strategy.
4. He has clutch potential. He is hitting .334 when pinch-hitting, and he has a 30% productive out ratio. Out of his 33 HRs, 17 of them were tying or go ahead run(s). He has created a trust between himself and Jeff Banister; he is arguably the man you want up there with the game on the line.
5. He has pure talent, drive,toughness, intelligence, and will. Any true baseball fan knows that there are things that improve a ballplayer’s value that go beyond the numbers. The poise he brings to the clubhouse, the swagger he takes to the field. The way he encourages his teammates. The way that the fans and players can rally behind him. Another thing that numbers can never show is intelligence and awareness. Intentionally dropping a lineout to turn two, sliding around the tag when going into a base. Running home from third after the ball hits the bat of the batter on a throw back to the mound in game 5 of the ALDS. That is smart baseball. As a second baseman and a lifelong baseball fanatic, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone with such awareness. His ability to be aware and make smart decisions on a dime is remarkable for a player so young. I’ve never seen anything like it. Just imagine how well he can be at his peak, once he gets a few more years under his belt.
Rougned Odor is the real deal. He is entering his 4th season in 2017, at age 23. He still has a long way to go, and I’m confident he will have a long, productive, hall-of-fame-esque career. He will be the best in the game after a few more stellar campaigns, and I hope that the Rangers won’t make the mistake of letting go of such talent. He is, and will continue to be, one of the greatest talents in the game for many years to come.