It might be hard to believe, but it will soon be a full three years since Rougned Odor’s stern “punch heard ‘round the world” to Toronto’s Jose Bautista’s jaw in May 2016.
In that moment and the ensuing brawl, Odor was the encapsulation of everything that Texas fans had to look forward to.
His fire, his consistency, his “spark plug” style of play and solid defense altogether were huge for a Texas team on its way to a second consecutive American League West title.
His 2016 season affirmed that excitement. Then just 22 years old, Odor hit .271 with 33 home runs and 88 RBI. He was well on his way to proving himself to the rest of Major League Baseball as an elite young offensive talent.
And then 2017 happened.
Odor’s batting average dropped a whopping 67 points, he struck out 162 times- one for every game he played, and walked a horrendous 32 times in 607 at-bats. The team dropped off to a disappoitning 78-84 record.
He was a completely different player than the year prior at the plate. And after starting off slow in 2018, he missed the first significant playing time in his career due to injury, and his immediate results also suffered in May and June. But the roller coaster went back up in July, he went on a torrid run and slammed six home runs in a three-week span.
At season’s end, he recorded a respectable 129 games played. But most importantly, he cut back on the strikeouts with 35 less K’s, and walked a career-best 43 times.
Age: 25. Contract: Year two of a 6-year, $49 million contract extension signed in 2017.
2019 salary: $7,500,000.
Odor’s 2018: 2.7 WAR, 120 H, .253 AVG, 18 HR, 63 RBI, 12 SB.
Projection for 2019: 3.0 WAR, .260 AVG, 25 HR, 75 RBI, 15 SB
2019 outlook: Odor heads into Spring Training with zero competition at his position. After a significant roster shakeup in every infield spot around him, he doesn’t have to worry about the possibility of a younger player gunning for his spot.
Because of that, there’s no excuse for Odor not to be confident. And given his strikeout rates to this point, confidence certainly isn’t an issue.
The question will be: in 2019, can Odor check some of that overconfidence at the door and be more patient at the plate?
He never found a consistent spot in former manager Jeff Banister’s lineup last year, but if he can put together any consistent ability to get on base, he could find himself batting toward the top of the Ranger order. That, paired with his natural power and respectable speed, is a potent mixture.
But there’s always a catch. Nothing Odor has done to this point in his career has proven he’s able to draw back on the strikeouts and aggression that has set Texas back to this point.
Odor is certain a case of “wait and see” in 2019 for the Rangers. That being said, he’s still has a certain spot in the lineup in 2019.
And there’s no question he’s a fun player to watch. It would be hard for him to match his personal highlight of 2018, an inside-the-park home run at rival Houston in July.
But Rangers fans can certainly hope.
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