What to expect from Rougned Odor, the newest Yankee

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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:

Odor’s Average Exit Velocity by season, courtesy of Baseball Savant
Odor’s Hard Hit % by season, courtesy o Baseball Savant

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.

Odor’s Batted Ball Profile by Season taken from Baseball Savant

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.

Odor’s OAA on Responsible Plays in his career taken from Baseball Savant. Red square higlights starting positions more usually associated with the SS.

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.

My take

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:

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  1. JJ Dools

    Really nice write up by Jaime. I don’t like the trade since I don’t think it was as low enough prospect cost and I don’t think they need to add someone with poor plate discipline. That being said, I imagine they see potential to unlock, which could make it a good deal. I hope I’m wrong and the NYY are right

  2. Billy

    I disagree with the notion that the prospect cost was minimal. Odor was DFA’d therefore the Rangers had very little leverage yet the Yankees still had to give up a top 23 prospect (Fangraphs #20 and Baseball America #23).

    At the time of Cabello’s signing in 2017, BA pegged him as the #15 international prospect and wrote, “is physically mature for his age, relying on advanced strength and surprising athleticism for his size.”

    Check out MLB’s prospect profile at the time of signing:
    “Cabello could also play second base and center field. He has a strong body and has been clocked at 6.45 seconds in the 60-yard dash. Cabello also hits in games and his makeup is considered off of the charts. He has built a reputation as a tough and hard-nosed competitor who hates to lose …”

    Fangraphs still has a FV 40 on Cabello. This is despite a terrible showing in 2019 in Pulaski after suffering a shoulder injury (but after an absolute beast mode debut in the GCL in 2018). Longenhagen of Fangraphs writes, “I’m not out after one bad year, and think Cabello has everyday physical ability.”

    Who knows how the kid looks after a full year of inactivity. Maybe the Yankees haven’t liked his recovery from the shoulder injury. My opinion, though, is that someone his age and remaining untapped potential is too much to give up for Odor given the circumstances. I think it’s disingenuous to say the prospect cost for Odor was minimal…

  3. chip56

    Odor’s bat has had “issues” the last couple of years. I’m not sure that’s going to improve coming off the bench. He strikes me as a guy who is going to need to play every day if there’s a hope of improving his efficacy at the plate.

  4. Eh. Not much to lose but I don’t see how this solves the backup SS issue with anybody other than Tyler Wade. Taking a guy who has never played another position and making him essentially their only backup option at that position is simply not a Yankee move. He only plays second base and they already have 4 guys who can play there (DJ, Torres, Urshela and Wade). Not sure what problem they are solving unless they want to get rid of Bruce and make DJ the every day 1B until Voit returns.

  5. dasit

    rangers gm: we have to rid of this guy! say anything you can to up his trade value!

    rangers manager: we believe he has the arm to play third

  6. Scooter

    I like this move. Maybe it works out or maybe it doesn’t. But the super low cost, both in prospects and money, is worth it. If he stinks, you get rid of him. If he is good and can improve like a few of the other players we got from other teams like Gio, Hicks, Tauch, etc., then great!

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