The Rise of Roogie Odor

Rougned Odor continues to excel at the plate and in the field for the Texas Rangers. Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison
Rougned Odor continues to excel at the plate and in the field for the Texas Rangers.
Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison

By Patrick R. Malone

It was the site of the bronze medal game for the World Youth Baseball Championship. Mexico teed off against Venezuela for the final game at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taichung, Taiwan. Venezuela led 9-2 after 5½ innings before Mexico rallied.

The game was tied 10-10 in the ninth when third baseman Fernando Perez hit a two-out single for Mexico. Shortstop Manuel Paez followed with a single to right. That’s when Venezuela gave up an error by right fielder Rainiero Coa, which scored Perez with the 11th and winning run. Venezuela lost 11-10.

But out of the chaos, excitement and melancholy ashes arose the stardom of a second baseman. Rougned “Roogie” Odor, who finished a triple shy of the cycle, scored three runs and had two runs batted in. In seven games, Odor hit .536 with a .545 on-base percentage and .857 slugging percentage with nine runs, 12 RBI and five steals. He was fifth in average, behind now Minnesota Twins Francisco Lindor. Odor was named to the All-Star team as the best second baseman in the tournament.

A Star Previously Born
Odor wasn’t just a star from this tournament, however. Like most professional players, the scrappy youngster began his journey as a baseball player at a very early age.

“When I was little, I started playing baseball when I was 2 years old,” said Odor via the MLB.com Hickory Crawdad beat. “I would go to class and practice when I was growing up and hanging out with friends.”

When Odor was about 12 or 13 years old, his father helped push him into seriously considering playing professional baseball.

“My dad was a big part of keeping me on the right path – practicing every day, putting me in tournaments or leagues with teams that were older than me,” Odor said.

Odor traveled at a young age for baseball. He visited Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cuba and eventually Taiwan.

Rangers Knew of Him Early
Taiwan is where it all started. The Texas Rangers had followed Odor’s career before his All-Star week ever began. They watched him play in Maracaibo. They did their due diligence on him and flew to Taiwan to see him play.

Less than two years later, Rangers scouts Mike Daly and Rafic Saab signed Odor to a $425,000 bonus. He finally was a professional baseball player. But his mission wasn’t over.

In 2012, Odor spent his first full season at the Class A Hickory Crawdads affiliate. As a Crawdad, he hit .259/.313/.400 with 60 runs and 47 RBI in 109 games. He also stole 19 bases in 29 tries. That season, Baseball America rated him as the top defensive second baseman in the South Atlantic League and as the No. 11 prospect in the Rangers’ farm system.

Roogie was promoted to High A Myrtle Beach and played 100 games for the Pelicans in 2013. During those games he hit .305/.369/.454. Odor hit 33 doubles, four triples, five home runs and 59 RBI. Oh, and he stole 27 bases on 35 attempts. And he wasn’t done yet.

Moving on Up to Frisco
The Rangers also thought he was having a huge year so they promoted him to the Class AA Frisco Rough Riders, where he found himself the youngest player in the league yet again. In 30 games, Odor hit .306/.354/.530. He added eight more doubles, two triples, six home runs and 19 RBI. Roogie also stole five more bases out of seven attempts for 32 stolen bases overall.

On May 8, 2014, Odor was called up to Rangers at age 20. Sixteen days later, he showed off the tools for which the Rangers scouts signed him. On May 24, Roogie hit two triples and had five RBI against the Detroit Tigers.

Then, just a few months later, he became the youngest player in Rangers history to hit a grand slam. It was against Erasmo Ramirez of the Seattle Mariners. He spent the rest of the season manning second base, finishing .259/.297/.402 on the season.

Sophomore Slump to Start 2015
He started out the 2015 with mixed expectations. While some believe in the sophomore slump, others thought Odor could give Texas an immediate upgrade. Unfortunately for Odor, his season started out slow. Actually, slow might be a generous term.

“The at-bats were not going the way he wanted or we wanted,’’ Rangers Manager Jeff Banister said to ESPN. “This is not unusual for players who are up at an early age.’’

Importantly, Banister still believed in Odor. He firmly proclaimed that Odor was going to be a part of a “winning formula” for the Rangers for years to come. He just needed to figure some things out first.

“I felt it was time for Roogie to go down and become the kind of player that got him here,” Banister told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Odor took the opportunity to find himself and embraced it. He was  recalled to the Rangers on June 15, 2015 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and continued his torrid hitting. Roogie was back. He scorched his opponents to a tune of .292/.334/.527 with 18 doubles, eight triples and 15 home runs. He also had 52 RBI and 16 stolen bases. But it didn’t end there.

Shines Against Toronto
The Rangers won the Western Division title and Odor was a major piece of that tasty divisional pie. He then showed the whole world what he was capable of and gave the Rangers a MVP-like performance in the American League Divisional Series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Never mind that the Rangers ended up losing the series 3-2, blowing a 2-0 lead.

Odor was a force. He was pesky. He was scrappy. He was nasty. He was himself. That edge, that he’s quietly become infamous for, stopped by to say hello. Just ask David Price, who plunked him twice.

In 21 plate appearances, he had a double, a home run, two RBI and a walk. He scored seven runs and put the Toronto defense on edge every time he was on the bases. He was even the cause of one of the craziest seventh innings in Major League Baseball history.

Catcher Russell Martin hit batter Shin-Soo Choo with the ball while throwing it back to pitcher Aaron Sanchez. The ball sat there and Odor ran home from third base. Choo didn’t intentionally interfere and it was just a sloppy throw. The ball was therefore live though umpire Dale Scott initially called it dead. But upon review he was called safe, which according to the rules, was 100 percent the right call.

This followed with Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons protesting the game and the Toronto fans revolting by throwing beer bottles and trash onto the field. Damn that pesky Odor, to which Banister would probably shoot a smile and two thumbs up.

“I love his edge,” Banister told the Dallas Morning News. “I love the edge of all of our guys. I take offense to anybody who doesn’t like the way he plays.”

Looking Forward to 2016
Today, with the 2016 season underway, there certainly are even higher expectations for the Rangers second baseman. He’s already made huge strides defensively and it has shown with a few highlight reel plays in the field. His bat started off slow, but it might be heating up.

On April 14, he had his best game of the season with two huge doubles and two RBI.

Odor’s future is bright. The now 22-year-old still has his best games ahead of him as the Rangers second baseman. And since he’s technically not a free agent till 2021, he has plenty of time to put up the numbers. He’s already become a fan favorite, potentially positioning himself as the face of the franchise.

Roogie has come a long ways since he was an All-Star in Taiwan. Now, he’s looking to be an American League All-Star. Now, he’s looking to be the best in the league—AL MVP.