Texas Rangers Spring Training: Rougned Odor is Ready to Prove Himself

Chris Halicke

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Rangers made a flurry of moves to address a wide number of needs on the roster. An upgraded rotation, a reunion with Robinson Chirinos, and a few other external moves give the Rangers a better roster on paper in 2020 than its 2019 counterpart. 

Despite these external upgrades, many publications aren't convinced the Rangers aren't much better. One example is BetOnline setting the Rangers over/under win total for 2020 at 79.5 wins. The Rangers won 78 games in 2019.

If everything clicks with the rotation, and the Rangers get the production they're expecting from players like Joey Gallo, Danny Santana, Willie Calhoun, and others, the Rangers are surely going to be at least above that threshold. So why the pessimism?

Simply put: there's too many unknowns on the roster. Betting publications don't rely on intangible hopes, but rather on proven commodities. And for the Rangers, whether it be some of the new arrivals or the Ranger lifers, there just aren't enough of the latter. 

After 2016, it sure looked like the Rangers had a proven commodity on their team. After two successful seasons in 2015 and 2016, Rougned Odor established himself as a centerpiece of a team that won back-to-back division titles. The Rangers were able to find a permanent replacement for Ian Kinsler after the team traded him for Prince Fielder after the 2013 season. In the process, Odor earned himself a nice 6-year, $49.5 million contract extension. 

Right on the heels of that extension, Odor struggled right out of the gate. 2017 was an abysmal season. Despite hitting 30 home runs and turning in a fine defensive season, Odor's batting average dipped a jaw-dropping amount from .271 to .204 in just one season's time. His on-base and slugging percentages dipped noticeably as well. 

2018 was a nice turn-around, getting his average back up to .251 and OPS up to a respectable .751. He also had a +10 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), establishing himself as a solid defender. So maybe 2017 was a fluke. 

Unfortunately, 2019 was nearly a carbon copy of 2017's offensive production. Not to mention, his DRS dipped down to a -8. What was once hoping to be an anomaly, now shifted into becoming a gigantic red flag. So the question now becomes, what's the plan with Rougned Odor in 2020?

Rangers GM Jon Daniels wasn't afraid to speak his mind about what they're expecting from Odor heading into the season. He didn't waste any time either.

"For us to win a championship, we need significantly better performance out of those spots. That's just being honest," Daniels said of Odor and teammate Elvis Andrus in his end-of-season press conference. "They'll be the first to talk about it – the first to understand what needs to happen."

The Rangers aren't so quick to give up on Odor. Not even regarding the remaining three years on his contract, but even in these past three seasons, we've seen the flashes of what he can do when everything is clicking. Manager Chris Woodward spoke at length on Friday about his starting second baseman.

"I know last year was tough on him at times. All of us want to see him become the consistent player we believe he can be and he believes he can be," Woodward said. "I've said this many times, he's a little different than most players just because of his ability to interact and relate and show a deeper care for the team and his teammates."

Odor is a popular player in the clubhouse. His relationship with Elvis Andrus is well-documented on the field. He's also been responsible for a number of Rangers' memories, including the second-most popular punch thrown in the team's history. But that allure doesn't excuse anyone from underperforming.

"Obviously, you've got to produce on the field. When he's on the field, there's nobody that plays harder, there's nobody that's more intensity. He wear his heart on his sleeve when he plays. That brings the team together. He has the ability to bring everybody together both on the field and off the field."

Chris Woodward knows what the Rangers have if Odor can unlock the gateway to consistency. Odor was a big part of the 2015 and 2016 teams that won the A.L. West. If Odor can tap into that next level, the Rangers' dynamic shifts altogether.

"For him to be a consistent – extremely, extremely talented player, if he can put that together on a night by night basis where he's actually consistently productive, now we're talking about somebody that can literally change our team in so many ways," Woodward said. "He's got to do that, he's got to prove to us, to me, to the organization, to the world that he can do that on a consistent basis. I think he's taken that challenge on."

For a six-year veteran, having to prove yourself about anything takes some humility and maturity. A lot of players of that status will be stubborn, but Woodward paints having to prove oneself in a different light. 

"He knows that, I wasn't shy about telling him that," Woodward said. "It's not a negative thing. You've got to prove yourself in life every day. I think everybody that wakes up in the morning has some hunger and desire to be better the next day than the past. You always have something to prove. As long as it's not a negative thing that's pulling you down, where it's causing anxiety or some sort of worry like, 'I've got to produce today,' you should look forward to that."

For some fans, they're just waiting on Odor to fail so a young guy like Nick Solak can take over. Good managers like Chris Woodward won't do that. He's wrapped his arms around this group, Odor included. 

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