Is Rougned Odor on the Verge of a Fantasy Baseball Breakout?
I'm just not going to have any exposure to him in fantasy baseball this year.
Don't get me wrong -- this isn't an indictment of Dozier in any way. He's shown the past few years that his power is legit, and if it weren't for a hip injury during the second half of last season, he may be even higher on draft boards. It's more about what I can get at a much cheaper price at the same position.
That would be Rougned Odor.
Dozier currently has an average draft position of 73rd overall, according to Fantasy Pros, while Odor sits just inside the top 100 at 99. There are 26 picks separating the two, but the potential production split is not nearly that large.
Let's run through the case for why this could be the year Odor busts out as a fantasy star, potentially providing absurd value at his current draft slot.
Odor's 2015 Rebound
Early last year, it didn't look like we'd be talking about Odor as a breakout candidate for 2016; it looked like we'd be debating whether he should even get a second shot at starting for the Texas Rangers.
Odor's first 103 plate appearances in 2015 resulted in a grand total of 13 hits compared to a whopping 25 strikeouts. This led him to a slash of .144/.252/.233 and a prompt demotion to the minors. Sure, he was still in his age-21 season, but that's enough to stir up some serious doubts about this guy's short-term potential.
He erased all of those doubts once he returned.
From mid-June through the end of the season, Odor posted a .292/.334/.527 slash with 15 home runs, 18 doubles, 8 triples, and a 14.7 percent strikeout rate. That's some sweet, sweet pudding for your fantasy rosters.
As always, though, we shouldn't simply assume that these types of numbers are magically going to duplicate themselves over an entire season. A lot of batters can look good when we limit the sample size to 367 plate appearances. What's to say Odor won't regress closer to what you'd expect out of a 22-year-old second baseman? Let's take a deeper look at that to see whether we should believe what the numbers told us last year.
Signs of Sustainability
Now, we could just go into this and say that Odor's improvement is for real because he posted grotesque numbers as a 21-year-old in the big leagues, but that seems a bit thin. Besides, some of the numbers seem to back up the claim that he can keep on spanking the ball this year.
The best thing that Odor did after his recall last year was cut down on the strikeouts. By bringing his strikeout rate down to 14.7 percent, it shows that he doesn't need some insane BABIP in order to post a quality batting average. If you're playing in a league in which that's one of the categories, Odor's going to have an advantage there over a lot of second basemen not named Jose Altuve or Dee Gordon.
What makes this extra intriguing is the power that Odor showed. Normally, when you have a strikeout rate that sits below 15 percent, it doesn't come with a wealth of power. The only player last year who had a strikeout rate that low with an isolated slugging (ISO) mark higher than .200 was Albert Pujols; Odor's ISO was .235 after his recall.
That could be a sign that Odor is an outlier due for regression, and to a certain extent, that is true. His 31.1 percent hard-hit rate from June on wasn't a number that would generally produce a .527 slugging percentage, so we should expect a bit of a decline here. His home park, though, will help ease those pains a bit.
Over the past three years, Globe Life Park has the sixth-best park factor, based on three-year averages of ESPN's park factors. It doesn't necessarily translate into home runs -- it ranked 15th in home run park factor over that span -- but more runs means more runs scored and more runs batted in for Odor. This is combined with his long-ball potential and a sustainable batting average to make him a sterling roto-league candidate. So why then is his ADP still so low?
This doesn't all mean that Odor is a slam dunk as a breakout star. There are two fairly significant causes for concern when it comes to his fantasy outlook for 2016, potentially justifying a depressed ADP. Let's look into those to see if they're enough to scare us off of rolling the dice on this youngster in the middle rounds of this year's drafts.
Causes for Concern
When looking at Odor, there are two concerns that leap out at me: batting order and the assumption of progression. Let's focus on the one that worries most, which would be where Odor may find himself in the Rangers' lineup.
Despite hitting near the top of the order when he first returned from the minors, Odor ended last year hitting primarily eighth as the Rangers made their run at the postseason. He never hit higher than fifth after September 2nd, which brings a good deal of concern for fantasy purposes.
There are always plenty of factors to consider when it comes to evaluating a player's fantasy stock. Surrounding lineup, park factor, individual talent. It's possible that he could have all three of those. But if he bats eighth -- restricting his volume -- then the impact of those is much lower.
The Rangers' lineup does have a decent amount of oomph to it, which means this is a plausible outcome. Odor could possibly slide his way into the top two spots if Delino DeShields Jr. gets off to a slow start, but it's hard to project his spot in the batting order on a mere hypothetical.
That's concern number one. The second is that there is an element of the assumption of progression at play with Odor. His age is a plus in that realm, but it could also lead to his being over-drafted based on potential. Because we're only getting what Odor is able to churn out this year, it doesn't matter for us how good his long-term outlook is. We need to be drafting him based on his 2016 potential as opposed to 2019. Are these concerns enough to rule Odor out of consideration?
For me, the answer is no, and the reasoning for both comes from the same source. In the Rangers' 2016 ZiPS projections, Odor is projected to have the second highest wOBA on the team for this year behind Shin-Soo Choo. numberFire's projections will come out later this month, and I would assume they'll push a similar story: even though the Rangers' lineup is a good one, he is one of its better assets.
If Odor were to produce at the same level as ZiPS says he will, then it'd be difficult for the Rangers to keep him batting eighth. That could clear up the volume concerns.
Additionally, Odor's projections are in line with the numbers he posted last year. ZiPS has him down for a .273/.324/.465 slash with 20 dingers over 607 plate appearances. This would mean we're not banking on progression but rather retention of what he showed last year. And this is a projection system as opposed to our own wild fantasies. I can live with that.
Where to Take Odor
Clearly, Odor isn't a surefire stud for 2016, but that's accounted for in his ADP. His upside makes him more than worth his draft slot.
Odor appears to be firmly in the same tier of the likes of Dozier when it comes to re-draft leagues. Once you get into the 80th pick range, I would feel comfortable with picking Odor. If the draft is playing out where you think you can wait a bit longer and still snag him, then I'd do so to minimize opportunity cost. However, he could easily be worth the price once you get into the 80's.
If it starts to become clear that Odor will be hitting higher in the order during spring training, then I think that number should come down even a bit more. That would eliminate one of our major concerns, and it would give Odor a higher floor than he currently possesses. Combined with his upside, that's a major factor to consider.
Put back-to-back, I do think Dozier would be a better selection than Odor. He has a more solidified spot in the order, we've seen him produce multiple years in a row, and he likely has more home-run potential than Odor. But based on their current ADP's, it seems clear to me that Odor is a value waiting to happen.