Do you ever look at a player, and realize that they are exactly what you like, just before what you like happens? For me that is Rougned Odor.
Last year after Jurickson Profar fell off a wall and all of the kings horses and men couldn't put him back together again, and the Rangers didn't have a veteran to put at 2B, they went with 20 year old Odor.
Rougned Odor came onto my radar back in 2013. He was also 4 years younger than his competition the year before and various minor league sites had noted that this guy seemed like he was ahead of the game he was playing. He may had only posted a roughly league average .714 OPS as an 18 year old in A ball, but the Rangers were promoting him, and he seemed up for the task.
Rougned rose to the challenge and mashed A+ and 30 games of AA, to the tune of 305/365/474. He also hit 11 HRs, and had 32 SBs. All in all, he had a great year, and was a 20 year old and had reached AA, where he was 5 years younger than the average player.
So back to last year, Odor came in as the next in line after a big deal had just been given to Elvis Andrus, and Profar had just had his first cup of coffee and was already being anointed the next super star of the MLB. Profar obviously fell apart and Odor was hitting well yet again. So his call up came and held his own.
As a 20 year old Odor hit 259/297/402, not impressive, and he put up 9 HR and 4SB in 114 games. He also only had 15% line drives, and a fairly alarming 16.8 IFFB%. So what makes me so high on Odor you may ask?
It's as simple as swing and miss ability for Odor. Last season, if Rougned Odor had qualified for the batting title, he would have had the 46th best contact rate in baseball, 84.8%. Do you know how many rookies were better? 0. I am extremely impressed by his ability to make this much contact, and he wasn't taking every pitch in order to keep this rate up. In fact only Altuve, Cano, Jeter, Sal Perez, and Scooter Gennett swung more and whiffed less. So the hit king, a hall of famer, a hall of famer, a beast catcher (idk what to call him, but Sal's good), and Gennett are Odor's company. To be honest, these guys are a great group to compare him to, a blend of their tools gives you exactly what I expect from Odor.
So when you see that he's clearly a free swinger, as many young hitters are, but he's making more contact than everyone else close to his age, I get excited. But his contact wasn't something that seems like teams can plan for next season. For example, he had a below average likelihood to swing and miss against fastballs, breaking pitches, and offspeed pitches. Then when you look at his swing rates, he wasn't chasing a ton of pitches, but he was hitting almost everything he did chase.
Swing Rate, courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net
Whiff Rate, courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net
The only pitch location he has issues with are low and in, which he doesn't swing at very often. Going forward, I expect Odor to do three things.
1. Swing at a few less balls, but the same amount of strikes next season. I still think he'll swing at more balls than average, but maybe he'll be down to a 34% chase rate.
2. Have essentially the same contact rate. He's going to hit the same number of pitches, but slightly improved selection will result in harder contact.
3. Grow. As a 20 year old, he now has access and attention of MLB level trainers, nutritionist, and coaches. He'll have access to information that less that 20 people in the MLB have ever had at his age, so while he may not be a masher, being bigger than 5'11" 170lbs, while allow him to play faster than the game that he's already catch up to.
My view may seem simple, but simply avoiding dangerous situations (swinging and missing), is what can lead to success at the highest level. Have you ever looked at stats of guys from eras long ago, the greats had one thing in common, they all hit the ball a lot!
While I haven't mentioned him yet, the player who Odor reminds me of the most in the batters box is Jose Reyes. Both players can make a ton of contact, both spray the ball all around the field, both were impatient at a very young age, and both are regarded as great contact talents. While I don't expect Odor electrify the game the way Reyes used to every time a ball was put in play, I do expect him to improve his line drive percentage as he gets older, and for his batted ball profile to improve in general.
Odor is not going to hit 20 home runs, and he is not going to steal 40 bases. He will get you some counting stats to work with but the value all coming from the most important aspect of hitting in fantasy, actually hittin