Rougned Odor is weird. I’m not just talking about The Punch. He has one of the more unique player profiles in baseball. Despite that, he has been productive for the Rangers, which is why they decided to sign the 23-year-old to a six-year, $49.5-million extension. There is also an option for a seventh year, though details on that are sparse at the moment.
The deal buys out his three arbitration years and two free agent years. Odor is sacrificing a lot of potential earnings for security. That being said, if he is still productive at the end of the deal, he will be entering free agency at age 29 with the potential to cash in big time.
Odor had a nearly identical wRC+ in 2015 (107) and 2016 (106), but it would be a bit disingenuous to call him consistent. This past season, Odor hit for more power at the cost of OBP. As a result of his 3 percent walk rate, he had a sub-.300 OBP. While his poor OBP ranked 21st in the majors among qualified second basemen, his .502 SLG ranked fifth, and it would probably be higher if second base were not such a stacked position right now.
This deal is undoubtedly team-friendly. Odor is an above-average hitter who is a good baserunner. The advanced metrics do not rate his defense well, but at the very worst he can handle the position. That adds up to roughly a league-average player. An $8.25 million AAV for a solid, young second baseman sounds like a great deal to me.
One of the many strange things about Odor is that he was projected to be a 70 hitter with fringe-average power when he was a prospect. He is certainly not a 70 hitter — those are .300 hitters — but he did hit 33 HR last year. That might not be representative of his true talent power, unfortunately, because he had a 17 percent HR/FB ratio and played in Globe Life Park, one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the majors. The power is there, though. Projections have him hitting between 25 and 29 long balls this season.
Usually 23-year-old players get better in subsequent years. Unless Odor improves his plate discipline and learns how to walk, this is probably as good as he’ll get. Scouts never saw him as having a high ceiling, either. As Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs pointed out, it is really hard to walk so seldom and be a productive hitter. At the time that Sullivan wrote that article, Odor had a 2.5 percent walk rate, and as he noted, hitters who walk that rarely averaged an 84 wRC+.
I am not the first one to point out Odor’s poor plate discipline. His O-Swing percentage is among the highest in the majors, and his swinging strike rate is worse than average. His contact rate got significantly worse in 2016, and pitchers know how to exploit hitters like Odor. He is a flat-out disaster against breaking balls in particular, with a whiff/swing of 69 percent, per Brooks Baseball. I guarantee you that opposing pitchers will be well aware of that fact this season.
Of course it is possible to be successful with Odor’s hitting profile. Look at Adam Jones — he’s walked 4.5 percent of the time in his career, while putting up a 107 wRC+. But the norm is somebody who struggles at the plate. I would have preferred to wait another year to extend Odor, especially since he would have made the league minimum this season, and see how he adjusts.
The fact of the matter is that the Rangers have traded heavily from their farm system in recent years, primarily to get Cole Hamels and Jonathan Lucroy. There are no stud second basemen in their farm system to come up in a year or two. The only players who have a chance to push Odor off the keystone are years away and far from sure things.
Texas fans should be a little bit concerned about Odor’s downside. Still, the deal mitigates a lot of the risk, and the Rangers were not going to do better at second base either in free agency or their farm system for years to come. The team will likely get a lot of value out of this deal.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.