In typical Ninja Cashman Style, the Yankees acquired my fellow countryman Rougned Odor (even from the same city!). The 27-year-old former Texas Rangers second baseman arrived to MLB in 2014, having three pretty solid seasons in 15′ and 16′ and 18′, with WAR values of 2.1, 2.7 and 2.5 respectively.
However, from 2019 to present, the ride has been quite ugly: -1 WAR in 729 plate appearances ugly. Just to be clear, that means the Rangers would have been 1 win better if they had used a replacement level player (i.e. a random guy from Triple-A) instead of Odor. To quote a former manager: “That’s not what you want”.
So, let’s take an in-depth look at what the Yankees can expect from Rougned Odor after the jump.
The recoverable bat (?)
Odor has shown before in his career he can be a productive force at the plate. Most specifically, in his higlighted 15′ and 16′ seasons he had OPS+ values of 107 and 105. Those may not be superstar numbers, but they definitely show that the infielder has the ability to be an above average hitter. Given that Odor will play a backup role with New York, that production would be more than fine.
Most of Rougned’s offesive production comes from his power. This is shown by his very healthy career .201 ISO (a measure of power calculated by subtracting batting avg. from slugging percentage). This value is comparable to that of players like Manny Machado (.208) and Corey Seager (.205), for example.
The infielder’s quality of contact can also be noted while looking at his Statcast year by year measures:
His average exit velocity and Hard Hit percentage have remained steadily above average for his career, reaching its peak in 2019. The only exception being the shortened 2020 season that we should probably take with a grain of salt given the special conditions under which it was played.
Having said that, what has held him back from being a consistent force at the plate is his awful plate discipline, highlighted by a career 5.6% walk percentage, almost half of the 2020 league average of 9.2%. This can also be seen in his career 35.5% chase rate (percentage of pitches swung at out of the zone), considerably higher than the league average in 2020 of 27.4%.
Finally, from his batted ball profile, there is no obvious warning sign in his tendencies (I’m willing to mostly overlook his 2020 because of the shortened season). Generally, the trend for Odor has been: less ground balls, steady number of line drives and an uptick in fly balls; these are good trends to see from a lefty power hitter coming to Yankee Stadium.
How is his defense?
According to Baseball Savant’s Outs Above Average (OAA) metric, his second base defense is outstanding. He has rated positively every single year except for the- you guessed it- 2020 shortened season.
Every single inning of Odor’s career has come from the 2B lineup position. But, luckily for us, with all the shifting in the league this doesn’t mean he has not played other positions. In Rougned’s case, he has indeed shifted to starting positions more known to be handled by the shortstop (highlighted in the image bellow). In those opportunities he has been perfectly average, with a zero OAA value in a very small sample size of 58 attempts according to Statcast.
From the Statcast data, we can see that Odor’s athleticism and range of effectiveness can probably translate to other positions. However, the common problem when moving a 2B to the left side of the infield tends to be whether he has the arm for the longer throws associated with SS and 3B.
Given that there is no measure for infielders arm strength, we have to trust previous scouting reports or comments about the infielder to generate an informed opinion. According to various prospect sites:
On defense, Odor has the tools to handle shortstop, with an above-average glove and enough arm to make it work…Chris Rodriguez and Craig Goldstein in “The Call-Up: Rougned Odor” May 9, 2014
Smooth and easy infield actions, quick first step, works through the ball well, charges aggressively, good arm strength with carry, footwork still developing.Perfect Game, 2010 National Showcase
It does seem that Rougned has the arm needed to at least fake SS. And for what it’s worth, his previous manager did say this spring that he thinks he has the arm to even play third base.
I did find it interesting that the Yankees traded for Odor over Derek Dietrich who’s already on the Alternate Site. Although, the trade cost wasn’t high at all, and they are not even paying a cent for his contract, according to Ken Rosenthal.
On further inspection, I can say that his potential defensive versatility is indeed interesting. He could probably move around the infield and do a decent job in terms of range, while also having a decent enough arm to handle the longer throws needed from SS and 3B. The only condition here is if the Yankees are willing to try him there.
In terms of offensive potential, while I trust the Yankees more than any team in the league in unlocking hidden potential (specially when the suspect has good quality of contact measures like Avg. Exit Velo), it does seem that Odor’s problem tend to be from his total lack of plate discipline. This is not an issue that is easily fixed, as can be the case with a swing adjustment to fix a weird batted ball profile.
My first thoughts after the trade on his fit were more of Odor as a Bruce replacement (with DJ going to 1B). Although, while doing this research I became more and more interested of the possibilty of Odor being the primary backup IF over Wade. That last possibility makes more sense when taking into account the Dietrich situation. While Odor’s bat is not clearly better than Dietrich (probably far from it), the ability to play SS and become that BUIF is a huge advantage over the veteran in the Alt. Site.
Finally, it is important to note again that the Yankees didn’t pay a high price to acquire Odor. And as such, it is worth taking a flier on a guy that has promising quality of contact measures to see if you can be that whisperer that finally instills some plate discipline in Odor’s game. If you couple that with the possibility for him to play the left side of the infield (this instantly makes him a better option than Tyler Wade), there are definitely enough possible positive scenarios where he becomes at least a solid bench piece, while having the potential of a really good player on the cheap if everything does click.
P.D. Bonus points just for the possibility to see non-bearded Rougned. This is the closest picture I could find:Embed from Getty Images