In less than a month, Orioles pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Sarasota, Florida, to mark the start of spring training. Yet, there remains uncertainty as to whether that will happen as planned with the league’s owners continuing to lock out the players as the two sides plod toward a new collective bargaining agreement.
But as the lockout marches on, so too does Oriole of the Day, The Baltimore Sun’s series examining each member of the 40-man roster’s 2021 season and what’s ahead for them in 2022, assuming the league and the players’ union eventually come together.
Rougned Odor is the first newcomer to make an appearance. The longtime Texas Rangers second baseman spent 2021 with the New York Yankees, joining Baltimore on a one-year deal for the league minimum on the verge of the lockout.
2022 Opening Day age: 28
2021 stats: .202/.286/.379, .665 OPS, 15 home runs, 27.7 K%, 7.5 BB%, 0.6 fWAR (with Yankees)
Under team control through: 2022
2021 in review
Baltimore Orioles Insider
Number to know: .200. Odor has flirted with the Mendoza Line for much of his career; in three of the past five seasons, he’s hit between .200 and .205. In this case, the number refers to Odor’s expected batting average, a Statcast metric that calculates a player’s average based on quality of contact — exit velocity and launch angle — rather than the actual results. At .200, Odor ranked 258th in xBA of 262 players with at least 300 plate appearances. Many of his ended in unproductive flyballs, as Odor had his lowest average exit velocity and highest launch angle for a full season since 2016.
What was good: For an Orioles infield that had its share of defensive struggles in 2021, Odor should be a welcome addition. Despite spending less than half a season’s worth of games at second base, he tied for second among all second basemen in Statcast’s Outs Above Average with nine; none of the Orioles’ returning second base option posted a positive OAA at that position. The Yankees also had Odor play some third base for the first time in his major league career, and he was effective enough there for the Orioles to repeat if needed.
What wasn’t: Odor’s offensive struggles became even more exaggerated against non-fastballs. He hit .160 against them, and based on expected batting average, he was lucky to do, with his xBA of .137 the lowest among players with at least 300 plate appearances. Curveballs particularly gave him trouble; he posted a sub-.100 xBA and swung through the pitch more than 40% of the time, regardless of whether a right-hander or left-hander threw it.
Looking ahead to 2022
Likely 2022 role: Starting second baseman, at least to open the year.
What’s projected: It was tempting to list Odor, a left-handed hitter, as a potential platoon player, but given he’s had reverse splits the past two full seasons and generally balanced numbers otherwise, pairing him with Jorge Mateo or Ramón Urías in such a role wouldn’t necessarily be a clear-cut operating procedure. Both Steamer and ZiPS see Odor improving on his 2021 production, with Steamer interestingly projecting him to finish the season with a similar number of games played as a year ago. That could be the case if he plays well enough to interest a contender and the Orioles trade him to a team that again uses him in a part-time role.
A step forward: Over the past three seasons, Odor has the fourth-lowest line drive percentage, the third-highest fly ball/popup percentage and the lowest on-base percentage among major leaguers with at least 1,000 plate appearances. The gap between the type of player Odor is and the type of player the Orioles are trying to develop is seemingly quite wide, but the franchise’s focus with its minor league hitters is to hit the ball hard and in the air. Odor certainly does the latter and has a history of the former, and the Orioles clearly see the potential in a player who is still relatively young and has three 30-home run seasons under his belt, or as many as the rest of their current roster has combined.
Three up, three down
This series is ordered based on the WAR, as measured by FanGraphs, each member of Baltimore’s 40-man roster produced in 2021. The past three players featured in the series were Jorge López, Anthony Santander and Trey Mancini. The Orioles due up next are Paul Fry, Keegan Akin and Jorge Mateo.