I fully understand why some people might believe that Rougned Odor is franchise corner piece type player. Surely, his own team think as much as the Rangers gave the then 22 year-old second baseman a 6 year, 49.5 million dollar contract extension this spring. On the surface, it wasn’t hard for the Rangers to justify this move. Odor was coming off a season in which he slugged 34 home runs and was the everyday starter for a 95 win team. Aside from his on field contributions, he is an energetic and likeable youngster with a chip on his shoulder. This chip was never more on display than when he clocked Jose Bautista last summer, which instantly made him a fan favorite. Overall, there are a ton of reasons to like this guy, but the fact of the matter is that he really is not a very good player, at least not yet.
Let’s begin with some basic stats. In three plus seasons, Odor has compiled just 4.4 WAR. Out of second baseman with at least 1500 plate appearances in that time, Odor ranks 26th in the MLB, right between Jed Lowrie and Scooter Gennett. Overall, he ranks 146th out of all players who meet those qualifications, alongside the likes of journeyman utility player Trevor Plouffe and fourth outfielder Austin Jackson. So how has Odor been so mediocre despite many, including the Texas Rangers, feeling as though he is a player that possesses so much promise?
The main thing holding Odor back is his atrocious plate discipline. Odor ranks 10th worst in the MLB in both O-Swing% and Swing%. In other words, he has no problem taking the bat off his shoulder, but doesn’t have much concern about whether the pitch is a strike or not. To be fair, many young hitters struggle with pitch recognition and plate discipline, so I don’t mean to single out Odor. The troublesome part about his particular situation, however, is that he has showed virtually no signs of improvement in this department.
In three-plus seasons, Odor has a BB% of under 4.0% and has never walked more than 4.9% of the time in any season. Hitting is arguably the most difficult task in professional sports so I am hesitant to completely trash Odor, but we have seen in the past that improving one’s plate discipline usually starts with recognizing that it is a problem and then taking the steps to improve upon it. Discipline can be taught and most hitters can be at least adequate in this department if they set their minds to it. Odor, however, has not done anything to demonstrate that he is willing to abandon his all-or-nothing approach.
Here is a look at Odor’s progress (or lack there of) in terms of plate discipline since entering the league:
As you can see, Odor not displayed a far worse chase rate than average throughout his career, but he has actually gotten significantly worse. Now just because a hitter swings at balls, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are producing poor results on those balls. There are the Vladimir Guerrero types that thrive off being bad ball hitters. Unfortunately, for Odor, he like most other hitters is not one of these rare breeds who can do damage on pitches outside the zone. On the pitches outside the strike zone that Odor has put in play, he has just a career .220 wOBA. The league average wOBA on similar batted balls is .248, meaning that despite Odor swinging at balls far more often than most hitters, he still does less damage with those pitches.
Every time Odor takes a cut, it clear that he is trying to do one thing: hit bombs. It should come as no surprise then that he ranked in the top 5 in IFFB% (infield fly ball rate) three out of the four years he’s been in the league. The year he wasn’t towards the top of the pop up leaderboard was last season, he was still in the top 25 in IFFB%. While Odor actually strikes out less than the league average, adding his infield pop-ups to his 23.4% strikeout rate shows that he produces non-productive outs in nearly 40% of his plate appearances. When this is coupled with a complete unwillingness to draw walks, we have a player with a very undesirable offensive profile.
Unfortunately Odor is not much better in the field as he has accrued -22 DRS (defensive runs saved) since entering the league in 2014, which puts him only ahead of Daniel Murphy in that time frame. It seems casual observers have a tendency to see Odor’s athleticism and assume that he is a good fielder because of it, but when we look under the hood, we see that his glove may be his biggest flaw.
One would think that Odor could have room for improvement in the field as he appears to have the quickness that would allow him to get to balls many other fielders would not. However, when looking at the data, this is not the case either. In fact, Odor’s RngR (which stands for range runs — the number of runs above or below league average a fielder is. Determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls in his vicinity), is 16th in the MLB at -14.7 since entering the league.
According to Inside Edge Fielding’s fielding probability metric that records the amount of plays a fielder converts rated based on a how often a player at that position has made a similar play, Odor once again rates out very poorly. Inside Edge fielding groups the difficulty of plays into six bins:
- Impossible (0%)
- Remote (1-10%)
- Unlikely (10-40%)
- About Even (40-60%)
- Likely (60-90%)
- Routine (90-100%)
Through these groupings, we can get a better sense of the type of fielder a given player is. For example, maybe a guy converts a far greater than average number of plays deemed “remote”, but is below average of the routine plays. These types of fielders are recognized as guys that have a very high ceiling because most of the time, the gaffes they have made on routine plays are simply the result of a lack of focus, rather than resulting from a lack of athleticism.
When grading Odor by these metrics, however, we see a player who is neither has a knack for the spectacular nor the consistency for the routine.
Below is Odor’s Inside Edge Fielding Chart:
|Fielding Bins||Rougned Odor||League Average|
|40-60% (About Even)||35.7%||50.9%|
Regardless of difficulty, Odor is below league average in converting batted balls into outs, and his averages in this regard have actually gotten worse throughout his career.
Rougned Odor could still certainly develop into the type of player that not only excites fans with his flare and panache, but produces enough to help his team win ball games. For the time being, however, Odor is a subpar major leaguer, but is awarded playing time because somehow people still think that posting a high home run totals is enough to justify giving a player routine at-bats.