After the jump, we continue by taking a look at the #21 player in the LSB Community Prospect Rankings, second baseman Rougned Odor...
Rougned Odor is a 5'11", 170 lb. second baseman who turned 18 years old a month ago. The Rangers signed Odor out of Venezuela to a reported $425,000 bonus at the beginning of January, 2011, and as with many of their highly regarded young players, they chose to challenge Odor right off the bat by bringing him to the United States and assigning him to the short-season Northwest League affiliate at Spokane.
The Northwest League is primarily populated by college-age players who were just drafted and signed in that year's draft. Odor, at 17, was the youngest player at the start of the Northwest League season by more than six months, and only teammate Jorge Alfaro was within a year of his age. Ranger farmhands David Perez, Victor Payano, and Hanser Alberto were the #3, #4, and #5 youngest prospects in the league, and Richard Alvarez was #7. Texas isn't afraid to throw their young 'uns in the deep end.
Odor was able to hold his own against competition that was generally four years older than him, putting up a .262/.323/.352 line in 258 plate appearances, with solid defense at second base, where he spent all 54 of his games in the field. Like Jorge Alfaro, the spread in his average and OBP is misleading because he had 9 HBPs...Odor had just 13 walks in those 258 plate appearances. Unlike Alfaro, however, Odor just struck out 37 times, giving him a respectable K/BB and K/PA rate, particularly given his age and level. Baseball America had him ranked at #7 in the Northwest League, with praise coming for his above-average hitting ability and his slick defense.
Nevertheless, I find Odor to be one of the most difficult players to try to rank in the Rangers' system. BA had him at #9 (if you omit Yu Darvish),* and John Sickels had Odor at #5, saying you could make an argument for Odor at #3 (which would have vaulted him ahead of Leonys Martin and Mike Olt on Sickels' list). Keith Law has Odor at #6. Meanwhile, Jamey Newberg as Odor at #11, Jason Parks at #11, and Jason Cole has him. like we do, at #21.
* This is part of what makes BA's rankings difficult to synthesize...Odor was #7 in the NWL rankings, while Jorge Alfaro was #8, and they both spent all season in the NWL. But in the Rangers' rankings, Alfaro was #7, Odor #9. Also, Odor #9 sounds like a NIN EP.
Even considering the depth in the system, this is a remarkably broad spread, but there are some reasons for that. First of all, there's little professional track record to work off of...just 258 plate appearances last year. Secondly, Odor was playing at a level well above his pay grade. He didn't embarrass himself, but still, a 675 OPS is a 675 OPS, and it is more difficult to judge based off the stats when you have someone who is very young for their level but not putting up great numbers (or very old for their level and putting up video game numbers).
Third, he has the sort of skill-set that tends to send up warning signs. Years ago, I put into place the Jeremy Cleveland Rule, which states that I will not get too fired up about what an advanced college hitter does in short-season ball. Odor is subject to another rule, the Marcus Lemon Rule, which is that I'm going to tap the breaks on my enthusiasm for a teenaged middle infielder with a refined, advanced game and good instincts and feel but limited tools, none of which are really above-average. Of course, I invoked the Marcus Lemon Rule when I was being agnostic about all the hype Jurickson Profar was getting a couple of years ago, and you see how well that worked out for me.
Fourth, I am leery of teenaged second basemen in generally. Working on this piece on Saturday night, I tweeted a question...how many players who were exclusively second basemen at age 18 or under went on to be successful major leaguers. People suggested Chuck Knoblauch (who was an All American shortstop at Texas A&M, not a 2B), Robinson Cano (who split time between 2B and SS until he was 20), Rickie Weeks (who started at Southern University as a shortstop before moving to 2B later in his college career) and Ian Kinsler (who was a shortstop in college and early in the minors).
Major league second basemen (and, to a lesser extent, major league third basemen) are usually shortstops when they are 18 years old. And if Rougned Odor is playing second base right now -- even if he's getting raves for his slick fielding -- it makes one wonder if he's going to have the athleticism and the defensive chops, as he grows older, to stay at second base and provide value with his glove there. On the other hand,
I haven't seen Odor, and even if I had, I couldn't speak meaningfully about how he'll develop, what the future holds for his bat, or any of those things. But from what I've read, what I know at this point, my gut feeling is that the LSB/Cole ranking is closer to being accurate than the Sickels/BA/Law top 10 ranking. On the other hand, he is labeled one of those players you have to see to appreciate, much like Jurickson Profar a couple of years ago.
What does 2012 hold for Rougned Odor? My guess is that the Rangers will challenge him again and send him to the low-A Sally League and the Hickory Crawdads, and give him the opportunity to play second base for them over the full season as an 18 year old. Even if Odor continues to succeed and progress, he's a ways away from the major leagues, with 2016 probably the earliest he'd be likely to be in the mix for a major league job.
What sort of ceiling does Odor have? Slick fielder, quality hit tool, gap power, not a ton of speed but not sluggish...he actually reminds me of a player who someone pointed out was a regular second baseman at age 18, Jose Vidro. Vidro was 5'11", 175 lbs., okay fielder, line drive hitter who didn't strike out or walk a ton, and spent a half decade as one of the 5-10 best second basemen in baseball. Vidro was one of several offense-first second basemen who suffered precipitous early declines in the last fifteen years or so (see also Carlos Baerga and Edgardo Alfonzo), but that decline shouldn't overshadow the fact that he was a very good player for several years with the Expos.
And if Odor turns into Jose Vidro, we'll all look pretty silly in a decade for having slotted him at #21.