All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com
Rougned Odor is the iPhone 6. The trending commodity coveted by fans, scouts, and geeks alike. Odor has all of the new features: grit, tenacity, power, a magnetic glove, a strong arm, and a touchscreen – wait, no. Jurickson Profar, contrarily, is that old Motorola Razr stuffed in the back of your closet. When he first came out, Profar was the had-to-have product, complete with switch-hitting capability, a smile that could melt hearts, and a “#1 Prospect” stamped on his forehead. So, what happened? Why have we cast aside our former chosen one? Did we get swept up in the new technology – err, I mean player?
Rougned Odor, or Roogie or Stink or Rough Neck, has accumulated a .267/.306/.393 triple slash in 64 games as the Rangers second-baseman. Odor’s stats don’t tell the whole story. Roogie has reasonably improved every facet of his game since arriving in Arlington on May 8th in place of the injured Jurickson Profar – no, Josh Wilson – wait, Donnie Murphy – I can’t keep track. Drawing the attention of fans and the idolization of scouts, Odor plays with a palpable edge and flare. Odor stands at 5’11” (measuring generously) and acts as if he’s 6’5”, gnashing his teeth in the batter’s box, bat-flipping walks, and hacking wildly at high fastballs, constantly trying to hit a five-run homer. But Odor also has an attention to detail foreign to most rookies.
Ron Washington, notoriously tough on rookies and lavishly easy on veterans, consistently praises Odor for the way he plays baseball, a game predicated on details and “doing it the right way.” Many point to Washington’s baseball-playing days as the culprit of his rookie tough love, where he was usurped as an established veteran by a cunning rookie. Either way, Roogie found a place in Washington’s heart somewhere near his vintage Cadillac.
Like all rookies sans Babe Ruth-incarnate Mike Trout, Rough Neck had a stretch in early July where most at-bats ended in head scratches and bat chucks. However, what’s most impressive is Odor’s ability to rebound out of a slump and limit the damage to a few days, instead of a few months. How many times have we seen a rookie, mired in his own defeated confidence, extend a hitting slump for weeks? Too many. In all, Odor hit .171 over ten games from July 2nd to July 11th. After July 11th, Odor has hit .311 and raised his season batting average 12 points. The ability to timely jettison himself from the slums of a batting average plummet is a product of Odor’s tenacity. He’s better than you and he knows it.
Ah, the golden boy – former golden boy, that is. Jurickson Profar, or The Professor as I have affectionately nicknamed him, measures in at 6’0” with a lanky build, switch-hitting capability, multiple-position versatility, and no material weaknesses. Signed at 16 years old out of Curacao, Profar’s history of delivering on the big stage speaks for itself: pitched in the Little League World Series, homered in his first big league at-bat, and supplied the game-winning hit on several occasions in his brief Major League stay.
Profar has played in less than 100 Major League games, reaping a meager .231/.308/.336 triple slash (notice the OBP exceeds Odor’s). In his Major League stint, Profar spent 37 games at second base, 21 games at short stop, 20 games at DH, 10 games at third base, and 4 games in the outfield – vastly different from Rougned Odor’s playing time, which has come only at second base.
You may be thinking: Profar’s a Major League baseball player. He should be able to handle several positions. Think about getting a major promotion at your job with a multitude of new responsibilities. Now think about doing that four times simultaneously … with the pressure of being touted as the best at your job … and being the youngest to ever be promoted to that position. No doubt it could wear on you and affect your performance – not to mention a 19 year-old kid with 50,000 people and countless more watching every play he makes on the diamond, swaying drastically with every bobbled grounder or game-winning homerun. So yes, I’m going to give Profar a pass on his less than stellar performance to date. He’s 21. He’s talented. He’s likeable.
So why are Rangers fans pressing the eject button on Profar like Miami Heat fans after LeBron left? Why doesn’t Profar deserve a second chance to redeem his performance as a teenager? Are our memories that short? If so, will we give up on Odor after a rough season? The precedent set by assuming Profar is damaged goods as a 21 year-old former #1 prospect gives way to a slippery slope where late bloomers like Nelson Cruz never get a fair crack at the big leagues.
Next season will be the culmination of 10 years of scrupulously combing Latin America for premier baseball talent. Profar will be healthy. Odor will be ready. Elvis will be the incumbent. The Texas Rangers have three major leaguers that every team would give their left arm to acquire and stick in their middle infield for the next 10 years. Each can hit, albeit with varying power. Each can field. Each can run. Each can throw. Each endears themselves to the fans in different ways. Each can be a middle infield staple for years to come.
Which two are you picking?