30 Players, 30 Teams – The Rangers’ Rougned Odor

Now that the trade deadline and the reaction to it has thoroughly passed, I thought I’d revisit this series, albeit perhaps with some shorter posts. Let’s jump back in with one of the more remarkable tale of two seasons guys in recent years, the Rangers’ Rougned Odor, whose narrative has flipped in a dramatic way. He entered draft season with consecutive 30-10 years, though his 2017 campaign was far less productive than his 2016 one. In 2017 he had 30 homers and 15 stolen bases, but his triple slash dropped from .271/.296/.502 to .204/.252/.397. He did this in a full season of at-bats, 607 to be exact, maximizing the impact of his poor batting average.

Despite the poor rate stats from 2017, Odor’s HR/SB potential still made him a pretty desirable draft target. In 34 NFBC Main Event drafts, Odor’s ADP was 99.65, ninth among 2B-eligible players, and it was slightly higher among all NFBC drafts. In Fantrax leagues it was pretty similar at 105.78. But I didn’t draft Odor anywhere in my 13 roto leagues where he’s eligible (I have two NL-only leagues also) – the batting average risk scared me away, plus there were so many good options at various price points both at second base and shortstop that I didn’t feel the need to push Odor up. The only place where I own Odor is in a 30-team Strat-o-matic league, where keep virtually everyone with a pulse.

For about half of the 2018 season, I was feeling pretty good about this status. As bad as 2017 was, this season started off much worse for Odor. He missed a month early on with a hamstring injury, and didn’t hit his first homer of the season. When Elvis Andrus returned from an injury of his own on June 18, Odor was hitting at a .217/.292/.309 clip, sitting at still just one homer on the year. Not only was he not hitting for average, but you weren’t getting the power or speed you bargained for the price of that poor average.

When Andrus returned, the question was how they would fit Andrus, Odor and Jurickson all in the lineup at the same time, and Jeff Bannister’s lineup the first two days of the Rangers’ trip to Kansas City seemed to suggest that Odor was the odd man out, despite proclamations otherwise. But after the second of two benchings, news emerged of an incident involving teammate Yohander Menendez that might have also included Odor. Menendez got sent down, while Odor only temporarily was benched. In the article discussing that incident, it was mentioned that the Rangers were still working with Odor on his focus. This wasn’t the first time that was the case, as he was once demoted as a rookie as a punitive measure. Moreover, it certainly seemed that he tanked last season after getting a big contract extension, another sign of immaturity.

However, Odor had already begun to steer his way out of his season-opening slump. As the linked Dallas Morning News article above points out, Odor had a .367 OBP for the month of June prior to those two days off. Since those two days on the bench in Kansas City, Odor has hit .315/.390/.595 with 14 of his 15 homers and 9 of his 10 stolen bases. While fully acknowledging that we’re using selective endpoints, I think that there’s a clearly definable reason for doing so with Odor. He’s a big reason why the Rangers lead the majors in runs scored in the second half, and not by a small amount – they have 187 second-half runs, trailed next by the Cardinals and Mets (!) at 166 runs.

Is Odor’s renaissance a case in selective endpoints, regression to the mean, or simply a case where the player has grown up? For his part, Odor only begrudgingly admits that his benching in KC played a factor in his turnaround. Others have also demonstrated that it actually began before that sequence. But despite all the arguments to the contrary, I believe (and emphasis on the word “believe” over some demonstration that it’s been proven) that the benching mattered, and somehow a lesson about him taking the game more seriously (and there’s a helluva phrase) has taken root with positive results.

Where will you consider drafting Odor next year? Is his turnaround for real? I believe it is. Notably both his contact rate and his walk rate are up, the latter nearly double that of last season. He’s doing this without losing real power – his ISO is almost identical from last year (.200 compared to .199). He now has a career-high .820 OPS. In the past he’s always been hampered by an insanely high Infield Fly Ball rate. That since has receded, from 15.5% last year down to 11.2% this year.

Maybe he’ll regress, or have an incident that wipes out his newfound maturity, but I tend to believe that those invested him in last year will be happy to get him at the same cost in next year’s drafts, and might even pay up more next year.

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