Rangers top prospect watch: No. 1 Rougned Odor

Rangers top prospect watch: No. 1 Rougned Odor

Credit: Getty Images

Rougned Odor #73 of the Texas Rangers bats against the Cleveland Indians at Surprise Stadium on March 3, 2014 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

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by KATE MORRISON

WFAA Sports

Posted on April 2, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 7 at 6:49 PM

It’s difficult to write about Rougned “Roogie” Odor objectively after watching him play in-person. The second baseman, who might object to the descriptor “diminutive,” has every bit of the talent, drive, and flash expected of a top prospect, and a personality visible from outer space.

The Rangers signed Rougned Odor in January 2011 for $425,000, and started the Venezuelan in short-season Spokane at age 17 that same year, where he was the youngest player by more than six months. In this first professional season, Odor hit .262/.323/.352 in a league populated by older graduates of the Arizona Rookie League or collegiate draft picks, a line similar to fellow middle-infield wünderkind Jurickson Profar at the same leveland age. Though he only walked 5.0% of the time (in a 58 game sample), he also only struck out 14.3 percent of the time, an impressive number for the teenager. His performance in 2011 earned him a promotion to low-A Hickory in 2012, where he was again the youngest on his team, and one of only six players 18 years old or younger in the league. Odor improved his slugging to .400, hitting 10 homers, but suffered a slight sophomore slump otherwise, dropping his batting average to .259 and his on-base percentage to .313. Of course, these numbers are partially the result of a longer season as well as a larger sample size, and a exhaustion-fueled slump in the second half. Odor batted .278 in June, but dropped to .215 in July, and continued to struggle through the rest of the season, hitting .194/.247/.265 from July 11th on. However, Odor improved in two other key areas-walking 0.3 percent more than he did in Spokane, and striking out at a rate of only 13.8 percent.

In 2013, Odor started the season with the high-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans, and hit a breakout .303/.365/.452 across 99 games, including 33 doubles and 5 homers in the reportedly pitching-friendly Carolina League. Though he struck out in 15.8 percent of his at-bats, his highest rate in the minors thus far, he also brought his walk rate up another 0.8 percent, to 6.1 percent total. This improvement most likely stemmed from simple maturation, as Odor had shown the potential for quality hitting in his early seasons, but finally developed both the awareness and the power to make those tools count. In August, the Rangers promoted Odor to double-A Frisco, bumping the second baseman and his double-play partner, shortstop Luis Sardinas, across the most difficult jump in the minors. Odor didn’t seem to notice the fact that he was hitting against much more advanced pitching, though, as in 30 games he averaged .306/.354/.580 with six homers - ridiculous numbers for many leagues, though as always subject to the rule of the small sample size. He did have a K% of 16.7 percent, one of the few negative spots in his brief double-A campaign, but this should correct itself in further experience at that level.

As a hitter, Odor is projected to have a bright future. The 20-year-old has made improvements in swing and pitch recognition every year, and has developed enough power to make opposing pitchers pause. In the field, Odor exhibits a smooth glove at second, an ability to make outstanding plays to either side, and the arm to turn quick double-plays. He has only about average speed, but his instincts on the basepaths make him more dangerous than faster but reckless runners - in his 296 minor league games, Odor is 60-for-84 on stolen bases. His energy shows through in his play, for better or for worse. While he can be a positive force on a team, he can also let his intensity have a negative effect on both his hitting and defense. Odor plays baseball like it’s the only thing he wants to do in life.

Odor is an excellent candidate for a September callup, and some thought he would be called upon to fill in at second for the Rangers now while Jurickson Profar recovers from a shoulder injury. However, it is likely for the best that Odor remains in the minors for the beginning of this season, as 30 games at double-A aren’t enough to reliably determine if his bat is able to keep up with advanced pitching. Despite being barely 21 at the beginning of the 2015 season, Odor will almost certainly be pushing for a major league spot, assuming he remains healthy and on the same development track.

Kate Morrison is a recent Baylor graduate currently working as a freelance writer. She likes minor league ballparks, music and the nickname 'Roogie.' That last one will be explained in due time. You can follow her on Twitter at @unlikelyfanatic.

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