Texas Rangers: Can Rougned Odor recover from a horrendous 2017?

In the first year of his new contract, Rougned Odor has been anything but the player the Rangers expected him to be. Texas has instilled a ton of faith in their second baseman, but the giant step back taken by Odor must be concerning.

The Texas Rangers waited just days before the start of the season to sign Rougned Odor to a 6-year/$49.5 million contract. Odor’s deal was particularly unique as Texas tossed in two horses to seal the deal. It was certainly an exciting and entertaining way for both Odor and his team to enter the regular season. Odor just so happened to crush two homers on opening night against Corey Kluber to break in his new contract. Unfortunately, what occurred just days before the regular season, and on opening night, was the climax of Odor’s 2017 season.

Rougned Odor has gone on to have his worst season to date. Though just 23-years-old, Odor is playing in his 4th big league season. He impressed in his age 22 season, as he knocked 33 home runs, drove in 88, and slugged .502. Simply put, Odor posted the kind of numbers in 2016 that would warrant a generous contract in 2017.

We hear all the time that big contracts place too much pressure on a player to perform. Is that premise accurate? Who knows. You could certainly find specific examples to prove or disprove the theory. Only Rougned Odor would be able to admit if he has crunched under the pressure of his contract. It’s difficult to imagine that specific pressure would impact a player over a 162 game span.

I don’t believe his contract has anything to do with his poor 2017 campaign. Odor’s growth stunt is a result of the game adjusting much quicker than he is able or willing to keep up.

Rougned Odor has hit below .200 in four of the six months this regular season. He has saved his worst for last, as he hit .179 in August and is currently hitting .179 thus far in September. Moreover, he struck out 30 times in August and has struck out 19 times through 17 games in September. Odor has started in 148 games this season and has struck out 149 times in total.

How does Odor compare to the rest of MLB? One statistic says it best. Rougned Odor ranks dead last among qualifiers with a .251 OBP. He stands an entire 21 points lower than Alcides Escobar‘s second-to-last .272 OBP. Additionally, Odor ranks 128th in MLB in pitches seen per plate appearance, averaging 3.62.

The argument could easily be made that Rougned Odor is the least productive player in baseball. Yet, he has played in more games than any of his teammates this season.

Baseball has adapted to the overwhelming all-or-nothing approach. It is now acceptable for an offensive player to strikeout 175+  times in a season as long as he hits 30+ home runs. Most all-or-nothing hitters bring more to the plate than just power. They often carry a presence which forces opposing pitchers to pitch carefully, leading to inflated pitch counts for the pitcher and higher walk totals for the batter.

Take Odor’s teammate, Joey Gallo, as an example. Gallo is as much of a swing and miss hitter as there is in MLB. He strings together base hits only slightly more often than Odor and he strikes out even more frequently than Odor. However, Gallo has hit nine more home runs,  walked 45 more times, and his OBP is 65 points higher than Odor’s. The disparity in numbers is a result in a disparity of 159 at-bats between the two, Odor with the higher total.

Point being, Rougned Odor is far from a finished product. And from a team perspective, he is not helping. But age is on his side. There is ample time for him to make the necessary adjustments to improve. Given his contract, that time will be spent in a Rangers uniform. The Rangers have too much money invested in Odor to keep him out of the starting lineup. He will continue to play every day no matter the results. For this reason, there is no offseason more important than the one that is nearing for Rougned Odor.

The Texas Rangers remain in the Wild Card race, but the offseason is inevitable. Odor must find a way improve his plate discipline, while also improving his ability to put the bat on the ball. Those adjustments may be a lot tougher than they sound, but that is how Major League Baseball operates. Pitchers constantly find ways to weaken hitters; hitters then must rebuttal by making an adjustment of their own.

We’ve seen Byron Buxton do it with the Minnesota Twins in tremendous fashion this season. Buxton saw an upswing in batting average from .217 in the first half, to a current .255. He went from looking like a bust, to now being the can’t miss talent that was so heavily advertised when he was the top prospect in baseball.

Rougned Odor has already shown what he is capable of. He just needs to find his way back to that level. Based on the noticeable passion and energy he puts forth night in and night out, there is a great chance he figures this cruel game out sooner rather than later.