2015 Preview – Second Base
Last week, we looked at the first base position, manned by a player who wasn’t with the team a year prior. With the expectation that former number one prospect Jurickson Profar was going to be ready to play second base alongside Elvis Andrus, Jon Daniels pulled the trigger on a “baseball trade,” sending career-Ranger, and local fan favorite, Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Prince Fielder and $30 million dollars. The move was not without controversy on multiple fronts, from the way Kinsler found out (while on vacation on a beach with Elvis and through means other than Jon Daniels) to how he responded (hoping the team went 0-162 and saying he didn’t want to take on a leadership role). Both teams filled a need and had an immediate answer at the position they dealt from. For the Rangers, though, the answer came from an unexpected youngster and took a little longer to find than originally thought.
Amidst clamors of second guessing the Kinsler trade, the front office and management staff had to explore alternatives at second base, looking internally for answers. A handful of players had been brought in on minor league deals and were thought to be suitable for a short time. Brent Lillibridge, Kensuke Tanaka, Luis Sardinas, Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy all competed for a chance to be the stop-gap until Profar’s return. In the end, Wilson ended up being the Rangers’ Opening Day second baseman with Donnie Murphy as the primary utility infielder. It only took a month before Murphy was placed on the disabled list with a neck strain. The Rangers decided to pull the trigger on their farm hands, bringing up Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas, while Opening Day second baseman Josh Wilson was designated for assignment. The intent was to have Sardinas and Odor split time at second while filling in for Andrus and Beltre on off-days. Profar was just around the corner.
Shortly afterward, word came down that the much-hyped Profar had suffered a setback, however, pushing his time table even further back. The duo of Sardinas and Odor would have to stick around a little longer. It didn’t take long for Odor to play his way into the everyday job, bringing a busy, aggressive left-handed swing, and well-above-average defensive skills. He displayed a knack to learn about the game with a fairly short learning curve, and, after a career game in Detroit on national TV in which he went 4-for-5 with two triples and 5 RBI, Odor started to come into his own on the team. He played like he had a permanent chip on his shoulder, with a sneer and swagger at the plate and a flashy glove with range in the field. Odor’s presence on the team made the injury-riddled Rangers’ season easier to bear and watch, while alleviating worries about the middle infield without Profar.
In 2015: Barring injury (and how many times do we say that?), the second baseman’s job currently belongs to Odor. Before the 21-year-old Venezuelan arrived, worries about the continued setbacks to Profar’s shoulder made people wonder who would be able to fill the gap left by Kinsler on the right side of the infield. Odor could be just as good as Kinsler at his peak for the Rangers, and is much younger and much cheaper.
Odor has that “don’t take crap from anybody” attitude, as evidenced by this minor-league brawl in 2011 while he was playing with short season Spokane , and that chip on his shoulder that makes it look like he always has something to prove to somebody. His 2014 proved something to front offices all over baseball, as several trade offers presented to the Rangers asked for Odor to be included. Jon Daniels and company seem to have realized that they have something special on their hands and repeatedly rejected requests for their emerging second baseman.
Rougned played in 114 games last season, showing that, with a full offseason to prepare for a full season, he can likely play a full six months and beyond without hitting a wall. With guidance of coaches and the comfort of knowing a big league job is his, the slash line of .259/.297/.402 could go up. Increased discipline and experience could result in an increase in the 9 home run total from last year, as Odor showed he has some pop in his bat, and we’re not talking about first-row kind of pop. Defensively, the Rangers couldn’t have asked for more. Odor had a fielding percentage of .981, committing only nine errors in his rookie campaign. In the clubhouse, Roogie looks like he brings that same kind of youthful energy and excitement that Elvis Andrus had coming up. All in all, it looks like second base is going to be another fun place to watch, even in the post-Kinsler era.
JProfar, however healthy he feels he is, should begin the season in the minor leagues. He will likely stay there until he shows that he can regain the form that made him baseball’s top prospect. My prediction is that if we see Profar before September, something went wrong at the second base position, or the season took a turn for the worst.
Hot Stove: The biggest move the Rangers made here was to re-sign Adam Rosales to be one of their utility infielders. Rosales right now is the front runner to fill in on days off for Odor, and might be able to stop making his name a punch line with a meaningful role off the bench. The Rangers have only signed one other free agent infielder to a minor league deal in Ed Lucas. Any other backup infielder competition is coming from within the existing farm system.
What kind of contribution do you see from Odor? Is he the second baseman of the future for Texas? Leave a comment below and discuss! Next week, when PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT, we’ll take a look at the Face of the Rangers – Adrian Beltre and 3rd base.