Back in the days of Free AOL Trial CDs at Office Depot, I was a regular on a Texas Rangers chat room. I was a high-schooler, chatting with guys like MobBossAce and Mark478. (Why I remember their screen names, I couldn't tell you.)
Anyway, I remember proposing suggestions for the Rangers, massive, multi-team trades, big-leaguers for big-leaguers. "We trade Todd Zeile to the Dodgers for Darren Dreifort! Fills needs for both!" I was a 16-year-old know-nothing, trying to fix a team because obviously I knew more than Doug Melvin.
Only, I (and we) haven't really changed much. We identify areas where we think our teams need help, or where they have a surplus, find teams with the opposite situations, and say "Hey, it's obvious MY TEAM should trade THIS GUY to THAT TEAM for THAT GUY. Why doesn't GM see it?"
The most famous example in recent years is the desire for Jurickson Profar and Oscar Taveras to swap spots with Texas and St. Louis. Everyone thought it made sense - Profar was blocked by Elvis Andrus/Ian Kinsler and the Rangers needed an outfielder; Taveras was blocked by Matt Holliday/Allen Craig and the Cardinals needed an infielder.
Obviously, that trade never happened, and now it never will, for reasons that obviously suck. But, while Kinsler is gone from Texas, the potential issues with my favorite team didn't go with him, and that's because of Rougned Odor.
Amid last year's disasters for Texas - you've heard about those - was Odor's far-too-early debut. And while he wasn't a success along the lines of Jacob deGrom or Jose Abreu, Odor - just past his 20th birthday - acquitted himself reasonably well as a rookie. In 114 games, 417 plate appearances, he hit .259/.297/.402, with nine home runs. That is not anything to write home about, but for a kid who wasn't supposed to make the bigs until 2016 or so, you certainly aren't complaining.
And then there's this: Late last month, Eno Sarris ran a look through young players who saw their fastball percentage drop over the course of last year, often an indicator that, at the least, teams perceive a guy as a good hitter, for whatever that's worth - or at least a guy who can crush fastballs, so you have to change your approach. Sarris posits that it's a possible indicator of impending breakouts. Number one on that list, by a fair margin? Rougned Odor.
When looking at those numbers, the next thing to do is see if the change in pitchers' approach changed the hitter's results - if they stop throwing you fastballs because you can't do anything at all against a curve or a change, well, they'll never throw you a fastball again. Odor hit .260/.296/.391 in the first half last year, and .258/.297/.410 in the second. He hit .281/.288/.456 in his first month in the bigs, and .296/.345/.481 in his last.
Now, the downside. Odor hit nine home runs in the majors last year, a combined 15 over all of 2014. Scouts always said he'd develop power as he grew, and maybe that was the start, but a big jump could also signify some flukiness. He also doesn't walk much, keeping his on-base percentage under .300 and his K:BB ratio too high. And then there's the steals - we thought Odor would contribute some steals, after a 32-steal 2013 and descriptions of an above-average and smart runner. Instead, Odor succeeded on only four of 11 steal attempts last year, a miserable success rate that will lead to him not being allowed to run anymore if he doesn't get better.
Back to Profar. After missing all of last season, the one-time uber-prospect has only in the last month gotten to the point where he's throwing from 45 feet. The plan for him is to start the season in Triple-A, to try to rebuild a lost season's worth of playing time. In short, Odor's going to have playing time, at least for the start of the season, if not the whole thing.
Now, for me to take off the Rangers-fan glasses of optimism. It's true that there are some bright spots in Odor's prognosis. He is young, full of potential, with some reason to think his admittedly marginal numbers will improve in 2015. Bully for that. The flip side, and it's not even a subtle one, is that he's a 21-year-old who shouldn't be in the bigs yet and couldn't even get to a .700 OPS as a rookie. He walked only 4.1 percent of the time, reached base under 30 percent. His defensive numbers - admittedly a tiny sample - were less than encouraging, so Profar, if he shows competence, might push for the gig even if Odor's offense isn't the problem.
In short, Odor isn't a viable candidate for a starting job in fantasy, not even a middle-infield slot, save for the deepest of leagues. Second base is, somehow, sorta deep this year-Chase Utley, coming off a season of 155 games and a 109 OPS+, is our No. 13 consensus second baseman; Brandon Phillips, Scooter Gennett and Martin Prado round out our top 20. Heck, Odor is ranked above guys like Asdrubal Cabrera and Aaron Hill, who at least have decent-sized names.
So, the takeaways:
- Don't draft Rougned Odor as your starter. Frankly, if you're in a 10- or 12-teamer, probably don't draft him at all, unless he's the endgame. There's reason for optimism, but there's also reason for hesitance.
- Don't be surprised if you regret not drafting Odor.
- Don't trade Jurickson Profar if you're the Rangers. So much we don't know yet. That's true for general managers and 16-year-old know-nothings alike.