Texas Rangers 2020 Positional Review: Second Base
The Texas Rangers have consistently had the second base position penciled in with the same name since 2015 when Rougned Odor splashed on the scene, becoming a key figure in back-to-back American League West division titles in 2015 and 2016.
After yet another disappointing season in 2020, the incumbent second baseman is not guaranteed his spot heading into 2021.
We all know the story by now. After two productive season in those '15 and '16 years, Odor signed a six-year, $49.5 million contract which includes a club option for a seventh year with a $3 million buyout. Outside of a decent 2018 season, Odor has failed to live up to the contract.
While the 2020 season likely had a massive impact on player performances all around the game, the Rangers did not get what they anticipated from Odor. His .167/.209/.413 slash line is a pretty good representation of the Odor we saw in 2020, especially that proportionally higher slugging percentage.
Odor had a couple of good stretches where we saw a more patient, selective hitter. However, that was seldom the norm. Overall, we still saw way too much of the typical Odor who expands the strike zone and makes too many mistakes in the field.
On the flip side, Odor was tied for the team lead in home runs (10) and yet again led the team in RBI (30).
If that's not the recipe for a polarizing player, I don't know what is.
Nevertheless, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels has told Odor his spot in the lineup is not guaranteed heading into 2021. He was even removed from his everyday role during the 2020 season, allowing younger players like Nick Solak and Anderson Tejeda to get more playing time. A season-ending injury to Elvis Andrus required Odor to get more playing time down the stretch, finishing the season yet again trending upward.
The bottom line is Odor has massively underperformed his contract. Now with only two years remaining on that six-year deal, Rangers management is shortening the leash yet again. There was even discussion about a money swap with another club at the trade deadline. There even remains a possibility that Odor won't be a Texas Ranger before Opening Day 2021.
Outside of Odor, Anderson Tejeda showed very well in 23 games at the Major League level despite not logging any innings above the Class-A Advanced level of the minor leagues. The aggressive 22-year-old slugger slashed .253/.273/.453 with three home runs, eight RBI, and four stolen bases. He also thoroughly impressed manager Chris Woodward with his maturity and ability to adapt quickly to big league pitching. Even though he spent the vast majority of his time on the left side of the infield, there's a very plausible scenario where Tejeda fits in at second base on the 2021 roster at some point.
Projected starter: Rougned Odor
Internal Options: Nick Solak, Anderson Tejeda, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Elvis Andrus
Offseason Priority: LOW
If Rougned Odor is on the Rangers heading into spring training, I still have him penciled as the starter. I'm not thoroughly convinced that the Rangers have a more reliable option in left field that would allow Nick Solak to move to second base. I'm also not convinced Rangers management believes Anderson Tejeda will be ready to play 162 games at the Major League level by next April.
However, the Rangers are determined to allow their youth to play. It could be as early as June where Anderson Tejeda becomes the No. 1 guy at second base. Nick Solak may also get a crack at second base if the Rangers add a left fielder via free agency or trade.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa could be thrown into the mix at second base as well, but that seems unlikely given his comfort level on the left side of the infield. He also may win a Gold Glove for his defensive play at third base in 2020, giving the Rangers more incentive to keep him there or at shortstop depending on what happens with Elvis Andrus.
Jon Daniels has told Odor and Andrus that they may have to learn another position to remain in the lineup. Regarding Odor, he specifically named third base or left field. With Andrus, second base or third base would be likely destinations.
In all likelihood, Odor's tenure with the Rangers is coming to an end sooner rather than later. The Rangers have young talent up and down the organization that could fill that role as early as 2021 with Anderson Tejeda or in a couple seasons with 2020 first-round pick Justin Foscue. Maybe Luisangel Acuña, the younger brother of Atlanta Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr., is the long-term answer by the middle of the decade.