We continue our series where we issue grades and review the 2017 seasons for each Texas Rangers player, starting with the positional players and going in alphabetical order before moving on to the pitchers...
Mike Napoli -- F
Well, it seemed like a reasonable risk at the time. Mike Napoli, coming off a solid season for the A.L. champion Cleveland Indians, having been a key late addition to the Rangers’ 2015 A.L. West championship team, signed to a reasonable one year deal with a team option for the 2018 season. Yes, he had a rough first few months in 2015, and fell apart down the stretch in 2016, but there seemed to be a little gas left in the tank, and slotting him at first base, maybe as part of a platoon, seemed to be reasonable, especially given his reputation for being a great clubhouse presence.
It didn’t work. Napoli hit home runs — 29 of them, in 485 plate appearances — and drew some walks, but did little else. A .193/.285/.428 slash line, with a whopping 163 Ks, turned Napoli into a black hole in the middle of the lineup. He didn’t even hit lefties well enough to be a viable platoon option -- .192/.286/.415 against RHPs compared to .196/.283/.467 against LHPs. A 710 OPS in the first half, a 718 OPS in the second half. A 715 OPS at home, a 712 OPS on the road. Of his 82 hits, exactly 41 were singles and 41 were XBHs, which is kind of interesting.
Despite the struggles, Napoli continued to play every day until injuries forced him out of the lineup in September. The Rangers almost certainly will decline his 2018 option, and it remains to be seen if he will even get a major league offer this offseason, if he will have to agree to a minor league deal, or if he may finally hang them up.
The Rangers went into 2017 counting on Napoli to be a productive bat in the middle of their lineup. His failure to produce is a significant part of why the 2017 Rangers disappointed.
Brett Nicholas -- B
Kept on the 40 man roster all offseason to be the team’s third catcher stashed in AAA, called up to the majors at the end of July to take over backup duties once Jonathan Lucroy was traded, Brett Nicholas has continued his unexpected accumulation of major league service time and pension benefits by being lefthanded and being able to catch.
The 29 year old slashed just .238/.262/.397 in 65 plate appearances this year, but the Rangers were comfortable going with him as the backup to Robinson Chirinos for the final two months of the season, and while the Rangers could look to land a more experienced backup catcher for 2018, at this point, it appears Nicholas has the inside track to being the backup for 2018.
If he’s not the backup catcher next year, he may not stick on the 40 man roster, since Jose Trevino and Isiah Kiner-Falefa — catcher and catcher/UIF, respectively -- both will need to be added to the 40 man this offseason to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, and the Rangers likely would see carrying five catchers on the 40 man excessive. Still, just the fact that he’s logged about two-thirds of a season of major league service time, and is on the radar for the Opening Day roster in 2018, is a success for the 2010 6th rounder out of the University of Missouri.
Rougned Odor -- F
You know everything I said up there about Napoli? Most of it applies to Rougned Odor as well. No, he wasn’t signed as a free agent, but he was signed to a contract extension before the season. And while Napoli did nothing but hit home runs and walk, Odor did nothing but hit home runs — his .204/.252/.397 slash line is awful across the board, but features an OBP that is historically bad.
We have talked at length about Odor, and with five more years guaranteed on his extension, the Rangers have little choice at this point but to ride things out with him and try to get him straightened out. The team loves his energy and attitude, and even with all the Ks and no walks he was a net positive in 2016. At just 23, you would like to think that he can still turn things around -- if you want reason to hope, look at the second baseman for the Yankees, who also cratered after signing an early extension, but then rebounded and has been at least a decent player since.
But the Odor situation is baffling, maddening. A year ago he was the most valuable trade chip the Rangers had, the player that would have headlined a deal for a Chris Sale or a Jose Quintana or a Chris Archer. Now? Who knows what he is now...other than a player the Rangers want to be part of their core going forward, but who has to show significant improvement from 2017 for that to happen.