A New Formula Yields a Staple at Second?
Young. Hapless. In over his head. Disappointing. All of these adjectives were used to describe the start of the 2015 season by the Rangers’ second baseman Rougned Odor. Coming in to this season, both Jeff Banister and Jon Daniels were more than hopeful that Odor could become the permanent everyday second baseman that the club had been longing for since the trading of Ian Kinsler and the shelving of injury-prone mega-prospect Jurickson Profar for the entire 2015 season. The Odor that Banister, Daniels, and the Rangers saw for the first month and a half of the season was everything but what they had hoped for.
Up to May 8th, Odor had been hitting at an atrocious .144 clip with a single home run, nine runs batted in, and an awful 3.5:1 strikeout to walk ratio. He looked lost at the plate, to say the least. To make matters even worse, Odor had made four errors in the field, making himself look lost there as well. On May 9th, Jon Daniels had no choice but to send Odor to AAA Round Rock; he represented a gaping hole in the lineup for a team that had already struggled mightily at the plate in April and early May. While optioning Odor and splitting second base between Adam Rosales and Hanser Alberto seemed like the logical short term fix, Daniels may have finally discovered the formula to help struggling young players and prospects alike.
Historically, for whatever reason it may be, Jon Daniels and the Rangers organization have shown a tendency to rush players to the major leagues, and leave them there no matter what (see mega-prospects Justin Smoak, Chris Davis, and Profar). In Daniels’ defense, there are times when promotions to the big club seem appropriate. Smoak and Davis were both dominating the minor leagues when called up to fill a void at first base; Profar represented the only option and the future at second after the Ian Kinsler trade. Rougned Odor was never thought of as the sole future of the Rangers at second base, but rather as a serviceable infielder when Profar or Elvis Andrus needed a day off.
From the outset, Odor was treated in a similar manner as Smoak and Davis by the Rangers’ organization. He made his debut at the age of 20 on May 8, 2014 with the news that Profar would miss the entire 2014 season with a torn teres major muscle in his right shoulder. The concerning factor is that Odor had played a mere 30 games above High-A ball before joining the Rangers in May of 2014. After enduring a middle-of-the-road rookie season that saw him hit .259 with 9 homers and 49 RBI’s in 417 plate appearances, Odor remained on the major league roster for 2015. This is the point in time in which Jon Daniels decided to break the mold. When April and early May of this season appeared as if the Rangers would lose games at an historic clip, Jon Daniels treated the woeful Odor in a manner in which he had never before treated a premier prospect: he sent Odor back to AAA for 21 games when he was absolutely killing this team.
This is where the story of the second Rougned Odor begins in 2015. He spent 21 games in AAA where he absolutely crushed the ball to the tune of a .359 average, five homers and 19 RBI’s in 124 very important plate appearances. This time in the minor leagues accomplished two things. First, it gave Jon Daniels the satisfaction that he had done the right thing for both Odor as a player and the Rangers organization as a whole to ensure that they would be getting a better player on the other side of the recall. Next, and most importantly, it gave Odor his confidence back after having his ability as a player and his place on this club very harshly questioned for the first couple of months of the 2015 season.
While Odor’s .227 total average on the year looks dismal, the numbers since he was recalled from Round Rock on June 15th speak for themselves. The new version of the Rangers’ second baseman has hit for a .415 average, along with a pair of homers and nine RBI’s, as well as a stellar .442 on base percentage. In so many words, he is by far the most improved hitter on the Rangers’ roster at this moment. Maybe more important than the offensive numbers is the prowess in the field. Odor has shown even greater range and quickness at second since his time in AAA. Has Jon Daniels finally discovered something that’s been under his nose for years? It certainly appears that he has. Will Odor continue this stretch of baseball all the way to September? As hot as he may be, it seems unlikely. Only time will tell. However, by shipping him off to Round Rock to groom himself and get his confidence back, Daniels has given the Rangers a franchise second baseman, it seems – and it’s not Jurickson Profar.