The Texas Rangers have a rising star in Rougned Odor. However, to really shine in the Lone Star State, he needs to be more patient at the plate.
When Odor hit his two-run shot in the sixth inning Friday against the Oakland Athletics, everyone at Globe Life Park knew it was gone as soon as it left the bat. It was his third home run of the young season, but by the way the crowd reacted one might have guessed he was chasing a milestone. The way Odor Cadillac’d around the bases looked like a player who’s comfortable where he’s at. And that should worry Texas Rangers fans.
No matter how much Odor produces in any one game, or any one streak, it won’t matter if the Rangers don’t play deep into the playoffs. In order for Odor to consistently do his part, developing a more patient approach is critically important.
Last season, Odor hit .179 with 87 strikeouts and no walks when behind in the count. This suggests that Odor hasn’t learned how to fight out an at-bat yet. His 65.6 percent contact rate in 2016 was a career low for the young star.
Odor recorded a career low three percent walk rate last season while striking out in a career high 21 percent of at-bats. His 135 strikeouts were second-highest on the team to Ian Desmond’s 160. The two combined for nearly five times as many strikeouts as walks, 295 to 63.
The 20-year-old prospect joined the Rangers in May of 2014, when they were looking for an offensive boost to a sputtering veteran lineup. Odor responded by playing in 114 games while recording a .259/.402/.698 slash line and the team’s fourth highest ISO at .142.
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During the late innings of close games, Odor’s bat is non-expendable. He’s slashing .298/.487/.836 with 24 XBH and 29 RBI’s over his career in those situations. Odor tacked on 16 of those RBI’s last season.
Now that many veterans have departed Texas, Odor has assumed a much larger role in the offense. This year, Odor is expected to be a producer because of his aggressiveness and power numbers. In his career, he’s a .391/.738/1.143 hitter on the first pitch he sees. 17 of those pitches left the yard. Last season, Odor had a .502 SLG%, a .792 OPS, and led the team with 33 home runs while driving in 88 runs.
Odor’s secondary role is to protect struggling bats in the lineup. So far in 2017, he has primarily hit behind Mike Napoli, who has struggled mightly since last year’s World Series. Napoli is currently slugging .200 with one RBI in the team’s first five games. By hitting in front of Odor, Napoli has seen more fastballs, 61.8 percent, than he has since 2011. Rangers manager Jeff Banister is hoping this will help Napoli snap out of this funk where he’s been unable to hit fastballs. In the past two seasons, Napoli is hitting an abysmal -12.5 RAA against fastballs.
The Rangers have made it to the American League Divisional Series the past two seasons. Even though they entered the playoffs with the AL West title in hand, they couldn’t make it out of the first round each time. ZiPS projected the Rangers to be an average team this season, though the team won 95 games last year under the same model.
Patience is often the last word a rising star wants to hear. But, for Odor, it can be the difference in his career trajectory.