Third in a series of spring training previews
The good news for the Texas Rangers entering spring training is that their 2018 lineup returns largely in tact.
For all the blemishes the offense had last season, the Rangers bashed a the third-most home runs in the majors and scored the fifth-most runs in the American League.
They also left a lot of runs on the table, batting only .244 and striking out 1,493 times. Rougned Odor did more than his part to contribute to those unseemly statistics.
His were even more unseemly, finishing with a .204 average and 162 strikeouts. Only one qualifying batter in the majors, Jose Bautista, had a worse average.
To his credit, Odor hit 30 home runs, and he amassed a career-high walks total. It was only 32, but, hey, it was an improvement.
Obviously, much more is needed if the Rangers are going to stand a chance at returning to the postseason, and it’s no surprise that many believe that Odor is at the top of the list of Rangers who must rebound.
A lot of eyes will be on him and second base this spring, but he has shown that he can be a winning piece.
Odor batted 67 points higher and slugged 105 points higher in 2016, a season that included 33 home runs and 33 doubles in his age-22 season. It was a 162-game extension of his June-October surge in 2015 after a miserable start to the season that resulted in a demotion to Triple A Round Rock.
The big 2016 campaign also convinced the Rangers to give Odor a six-year, $49.5 million contract extension with a club options for 2023. The contract has an chance to be very club-friendly, but only if Odor plays like he did in 2016.
He gave signs of hope during the season. Odor launched 10 home runs and batted .266 in July, by far his best month. Though he batted only .159 in the final month, his worst by-month average of the season, he walked 10 times.
Odor also spoke early in the month about the importance of focus. There was speculation that the new contract made him feel compelled to do more than he needed and that he felt the same way after Adrian Beltre was injured for the first two months of the season.
Odor himself dealt with hamstring issues early in the season.
That’s a lot for a 23-year-old to carry, and focus often isn’t a strength for people that age.
It’s also an excuse, and Odor wasn’t interested in making any. He was what he was, over all 162 games, and it’s wasn’t good enough and won’t be in 2018.
The Rangers have an option should the woes continue. Jurickson Profar will make the Opening Day roster, assuming he isn’t traded, and he was ticketed to be the starting second baseman in 2014 before a shoulder injury ruined that season and the next, and opened the door for Odor.
Profar played second base in 2016 in place of Odor while he served a seven-game suspension for slugging Bautista. But Profar, who is out of options, had only three brief stints with the Rangers last season and didn’t receive a call-up in September despite having a solid season at Round Rock.
The Rangers clearly believe that their best option at second base is for Odor to get back on track. He can, as he has shown, and he must.