A lot is made of “up the middle” production. Whether it’s game calling and power as a catcher, speed and control in center field, or range and run scoring from the middle infielders, much of the game of baseball starts at the pitcher’s mound and radiates outward.
Unfortunately for the Texas Rangers, some of the weakest links on the team in 2019 were a part of that “up the middle” section. That includes Rougned Odor, who will be getting another chance to prove his worth in 2020.
Second Base In 2019
Opening Day: Rougned Odor
Through the season: Danny Santana, Logan Forsythe, Nick Solak
A year after signing a contract extension that was intended to cement second base for years to come, Rougned Odor put up a career year in 2018. The strikeouts went down, the average went up, and the defense put the 24-year old in Gold Glove talks. The hope was that the performance and confidence would continue for Odor into 2019. What followed was anything but hopeful for Rangers fans.
Odor’s performance didn’t just drop, it plummeted. From a slash of .253/.326/.424 and 127 strikeouts over 129 games to .205/.283/.439 with an astronomical jump of 49 strikeouts to 178, Odor was visibly lost at the plate. Confidence gave way to stubbornness, as reports of Odor’s inability to adapt to the increase and communication of new data surfaced.
Odor wound up seeing an average of just over four pitches per at-bat. It wasn’t that Odor was chasing pitches out of the zone either; Odor saw a pretty drastic decrease in contact on pitches inside the zone from 2018 to 2019.
Odor allowed his struggles at the plate to carry over to the field, as his fielding percentage dropped ten points and his errors increased by six. In 2018, Odor was ten runs above average in defensive runs saved, but dropped to negative eight in 2019.
Perhaps it was a willingness to let a young veteran in Odor work things out at the plate, or perhaps it was because there was a significant lack of depth options to supplant him, but Odor still saw 140 games last year.
A move was made a couple of weeks before the trade deadline to acquire a similar profile player from Tampa Bay in Nick Solak, prompting some to wonder whether the writing was on the wall for Odor.
Solak filled several needs for Texas, more so as designated hitter and third base. As such, Odor continued to just live out his struggles through 2019.
Projected Opening Day: Rougned Odor
Depth: Nick Solak, Danny Santana
With a full Spring Training of Solak on the horizon, the pressure is on for Odor. Even though he has three seasons left on his contract, it’s not exactly at a bank-breaking amount – $9 million for 2020 and just over $12 million for the next two seasons. Reports from Spring Training thus far from the media have been encouraging.
Odor reportedly cleared his mind and acknowledged his shortcomings from 2019. His attitude is unchanged, sporting the same outward confidence that has become his on-field signature. But a part of the issues from last season for Odor came from being too stubborn and sticking too hard to his guns.
He recognized as much, telling media members that he wasn’t accustomed to the onslaught of data that came with new manager Chris Woodward and the revamped lines of communication in the Rangers organization.
After spending the Winter in Miami, partially under the tutelage of Detroit Tigers’ slugger Victor Martinez, Odor said he better understands the information being given to him and is ready to put it to good use.
The expectations for the Texas Rangers as a whole might be large, as they look to make their Globe Life Field debut in style. The expectations for Rougned Odor, however, are infinitely larger; the montages of the Jose Bautista punch heard ‘round the world are nothing but passing nostalgia, along the same lines as Nolan Ryan and Robin Ventura. The 26-year-old should be approaching the prime of his career, and it’s time he starts playing like it’s his time.
If not, Nick Solak is waiting in the wings to take second base away from the Rangers’ six-year veteran.
Do you think Rougned Odor will be able to hold onto the second base job for the Rangers? Share your thoughts with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.