Fantasy Baseball: Should You Pay Up for Rougned Odor?

Odor had a breakout 2016 season, including a career high 33 home runs. Can he build off his success, or is he due for some regression?

With rumors going around this week of the potential Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor super-fight actually happening (we'll believe it when we see it), what better time to take a look at the man who delivered the most infamous punch of last year's MLB season?

Pow! Right in the kisser!

Whether you found it entertaining or unacceptable, we're really here to discuss if Rougned Odor can duplicate his breakout 2016 season.

Odor's campaign was littered with career highs across the board, including 33 home runs -- more than double his previous high -- along with 89 runs, 88 RBI, 14 stolen bases, a .271 average, and a .231 Isolated Slugging Percentage (ISO).

The power spike didn't come without some concessions, though -- he also had career worsts in walk rate (3.0%) and strikeout rate (21.4%), which contributed to an abysmal .296 OBP, the ninth worst among qualified hitters last season. His wRC+ was a rather modest 106.

But the question is whether this is a sustainable approach. Will Odor continue to pack a punch, or will he eventually become a punch-out machine?

Knockout Power

Odor morphed himself into an aggressive power hitter, and as FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan throughly analyzed last September, much of this success came against the fastball.

According to Brooks Baseball, against four-seamers he had a .647 slugging percentage and .353 ISO in 2016. That success continued against sinkers, where he posted a .726 slugging percentage and a .304 ISO. Of his 33 homers, 23 of them came off these two pitches.

Pitchers clearly picked up on this, as Odor saw the smallest percentage of fastballs in his career. But he wasn't shy about it when he did see them, swinging away at hard stuff 54.81% of the time, up from 44.88% the year prior.

However, this wasn't simply a case of hitting fastballs well. Certain trends across his three Major League seasons show this power spike didn't happen overnight.

In particular, his batted-ball profile indicates a player increasingly selling out for home runs, as shown by a steady climb in fly-ball rate (FB%), hard-hit rate (Hard%), pull rate (Pull%), and home-run-to-fly-ball rate (HR/FB). It's no surprise then that his ground-ball rate (GB%), opposite-field rate (Oppo%), and soft-hit rate (Soft%) all went in the opposite direction.

Year GB% FB% Pull% Oppo% Soft% Hard% HR/FB
2014 49.0% 36.0% 38.9% 27.8% 24.4% 25.3% 8.0%
2015 45.8% 39.7% 46.9% 21.5% 20.9% 29.1% 11.8%
2016 40.2% 42.2% 47.3% 19.2% 15.4% 35.4% 17.0%

Odor has developed a fairly straightforward hitting approach. This definitely isn't a guy looking to slap the ball into play and get on base. He's looking to hit 'em in the air as hard and as far as he can.

Despite the steady diet of fly balls, Odor managed to keep his infield fly-ball rate at just 8.2% (league average was 9.7%). He wasn't popping up all the time at the expense of trying to lift the ball. In fact, he reduced his infield fly-ball rate by more than half (19.1% in 2015).

While it's tough to argue with 33 home runs, Odor's approach doesn't leave much room for error in the batting average department. He has a slightly below average .292 career BABIP, and one might just chalk that up as a little bad luck at first glance. However, given his propensity for fly balls, and last year's lowly 17.6% line drive rate (16th worst among qualified hitters), Odor is much more susceptible to a lower BABIP, and thus a lower batting average.

The good news is that if Odor can maintain or improve his 35.4% hard-hit rate and keep his infield fly-ball rate in check, he should be able to manage a decent BABIP. However, if those pop ups start piling up again, things could go south in a hurry. And that's not even getting started on his shaky plate discipline.

Chicks Dig the Long Ball, Not Walks

Apparently Odor is allergic to walks.

He had the lowest walk rate among qualified hitters last year, which amounted to 19 walks in 632 plate appearances. Six players exceeded 100 walks last year.

In addition to rarely walking, Odor also rarely saw a ball he didn't like. He increased his rate of swinging at pitches both inside (Z-Swing%) and outside the zone (O-Swing%) last year, and this swing-happy approach coincided with drops in his contact rate in and out of the zone (Z-Contact% and O-Contact%), and a rise in his swinging-strike rate (SwStr%).


How often did Odor swing compared to the rest of the league? His O-Swing% ranked sixth among qualified hitters, well above the league average (30.3%). This contributed to him swinging at 54.3% of the pitches he saw, ninth most in the league.

Swinging often isn't necessarily a bad thing, though (think Vladimir Guerrero). Even if he wasn't getting his bat on the ball quite as often -- particularly against pitches outside the zone -- it wasn't like Odor was flailing about at the plate either. In fact, he had an overall contact rate of 77.9%, right around league average (78.2%).

Still, Odor's rising swinging-strike rate is troubling. If he keeps trending in the wrong direction, it could lead to more strikeouts. Strikeouts are obviously never good, but it's even more precarious when you don't have the walks to offset them.

Odor had a sub-.300 OBP as is last season, so any jump in strikeouts would drop this figure deeper into the abyss. It's hard to score runs or steal bases if you aren't on base, and Odor isn't a terribly skilled base-stealer to begin with (53% career success rate).

He proved last year that he can succeed hacking away like this, but some improvements to his plate discipline will be necessary if he wants to sustain it moving forward.

Worth the Price of Admission?

Odor's Steamer projections look quite favorably on him, more or less predicting a repeat of last year with 27 home runs, 80 runs, 90 RBI, 13 stolen bases, and a .275 average.

Just as importantly, they also grant him improvements in walk rate (4.5%) and strikeout rate (18.0%), which are closer to his 2014 and 2015 levels. Whether he can actually do that will be the key to how successful he is in 2017.

You see, these projections are probably closer to his ceiling than his floor.

Being overly-aggressive certainly worked last year, but Odor is treading a fine line if he doesn't raise his walks and/or lower his strikeouts. Opposing pitchers know he can crush the fastball, and he'll continue to see fewer of them if he remains so trigger-happy with pitches outside the strike zone. After all, you have a better chance of seeing a fastball in a 3-1 count as opposed to 0-2.

NFBC drafts have Odor's average draft position as the 6th second baseman off the board, and inside the top 40 overall. That's a 3rd- or 4th- round pick in 12-team leagues, a high price for a player with some clear weaknesses in what's looking like a fairly deep position.

Could he pay off at this price? Absolutely -- 23-year-old second basemen with 30-plus homer potential don't grow on trees.

But what you're paying for is essentially Odor's ceiling, and there are enough warning signs to wonder if regression is coming. The future may still be bright for the young second baseman, but this might be a year to let others pay the premium price.