Batter’s Box: Foul Odor
Oh wait. Sniff, sniff. What’s that? That reeks! No, wait, hold on. Let me smell that again. Ah, yes, Rougned Odor. Could this be the start of one his patented streaks? The one where he puts it all together and shows the true player he can be? And then realizes that he can’t hit the ball anymore? It certainly smells like it. Odor finally did something this season joining the Ranger hit parade going 3-5, 4 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB. The start of the season has been abysmal for Odor. Early on, he had to sit out a couple weeks with a knee injury and after his return continued to not hit. He’s been striking out nearly 40% of the time, up nearly 10 percentage points from last year. He’s been making less contact on pitches in and out of the zone and particularly on fastballs (where he usually performs decently well). This all has combined to give Odor a .146 batting average on the season prior to last night. And last year, we thought he had figured out his batting average woes by bringing it north of .250 after the nearly .200 season of 2017.
But Odor has been known for streaky play. When Odor gets hot, he is one of the better hitters in the league. In July and August of last year, he had a 173 and 135 wRC+ respectively. In July 2017, he had a 129 wRC+ with no other month higher than 58. His 2016 was a bit more consistent being around 100 all season except again for July in which he posted a 127 wRC+. Again, in 2015, Odor’s June and July were fantastic with a 183 and 156 wRC+ respectively. It is still May and Odor seems to only get hot around June and through July, but these past few games, he has shown signs of life. Prior to this game, he went 0-5 but had a couple 100-plus mph hits, and the game before that, he had two doubles. Odor may not deserve a pick up yet, but if his hot bat continues a few more games, it will be worth your while to be ready. At least ensure you can grab him prior to his real time to shine in late June and July.
Let’s take a look around the league at some other players who are not hitting below .200.
Gerardo Parra (OF, Washington Nationals)—3-3, 3 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB, SB. Parra joined the Nationals after being DFAed by the Giants earlier this month. Those five games, he’s been decent, but he provided a spark for them against the Mets last night. Parra covered the bases with a busy stat line. Parra is only there to provide depth, so it will be difficult for him to find consistent playing time. Unless he overtakes any particular starter, he should be ignored.
Christian Yelich (OF, Milwaukee Brewers)—3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 2B, 2 RBI, SB. It’s so hard not to mention this guy as he continues to be unbelievable. It seemed like forever ago that he hit his last homer (checks calendar … only seven games ago), so he made up for it with two. Since April 21, he only has five home runs, including last night’s. His fly-ball rate has dipped a bit, and his ground-ball rate is back to its usual level over that span. He still ended up producing with those batted balls last year, so he should still be great moving forward.
Mike Moustakas (2B/3B, Milwaukee Brewers)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. Moose took a week off in the middle of April with a finger issue. After his return, he has hit safely in every game but three. He’s been solidly consistent this whole season, even compared with the past couple seasons. So far, you are getting more Moose, and who doesn’t want that where he was drafted this season?
Josh Phegley (C, Oakland Athletics)—4-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Phegley’s name pop up, but don’t let that fool you. He’s been getting plenty of playing time in Oakland while consistently batting around .300. Every now and then, he’ll provide a burst of offense, including eight RBI a couple weeks back. He is hitting over 30% line drives and 40% fly balls, so many of those do find their way as hits. If you are picking up and dropping catchers, it may not be worth dropping him just yet.
Joey Gallo (OF, Texas Rangers)—4-5, 4 R, HR, 2 2B, RBI, BB. He’s learning and transforming right before our very eyes. Gallo’s taken major strides in the ways we all hoped to push him to become an elite hitter. His chase rate is down 9 percentage points, and his swinging-strike rate is down 3. He’s hitting fewer grounders and more line drives, so that higher BABIP of his may be somewhat deserved. Still, expect his average to drop but not to the levels it has been in previous seasons. If all this continues, Gallo is a star.
Willie Calhoun (OF, Texas Rangers)—4-7, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI. There goes Calhoun again. That is two games and two home runs. Calhoun was just called up, and Scott Chu dove a bit deeper into Calhoun on yesterday’s Batter’s Box. He’s a highly anticipated prospect who has been called up before and has disappointed. Is this year different? He’s been dominating Triple-A, so hopefully his tear continues. So far it has.
Jason Kipnis (2B, Cleveland Indians)—2-6, 3 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI. Kipnis took advantage of the Orioles last night, belting two homers and piling up six RBI, doubling his RBI total and finally getting his first homer of the season. Hopefully this shakes the rust off Kipnis and gives him the spark he needs. Over the past nine games, he does have five multihit games, showing some kind of turn around. Kipnis is not a fantasy asset yet, but if he continues this trajectory, it may be worth considering him in deeper leagues.
Trey Mancini (1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. Mancini started super hot with six homers through April 10. Since then, it’s only been three, but he seemed to be changing his approach that could have a lasting impact. From April 11 on, he still has improved his batted-ball profile; 31% line drives, 37% grounders, and 32% fly balls. Mancini is known for a 50% or higher ground-ball rate while rarely putting the ball in the air. He’s changed his swing up making him a much greater fantasy asset. Expect more than 30 homers by year’s end and career highs in runs and RBI.
Austin Riley (3B/OF, Atlanta Braves)—3-4, 2 R, 2B, RBI. Like Calhoun, Riley was just called up and has just hit. A shot in his first game and following that up with a three hit night, it looks like Riley is ready. He already has 15 dingers in 37 games in Triple-A. He’s up to replace Ender Inciarte, so you might as well ride this wave until Inciarte is back and the Braves have to make a decision.
Freddie Freeman (1B, Atlanta Braves)—3-4, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Freeman continues his consistent hot hitting with three hits and a homer last night. It’s always nice to see a batter hitting so well and see Statcast has his xSLG and xwOBA higher than his current SLG and wOBA. Freeman is a great hitter, but will we see any of those sneaky steals he can provide? So far, he’s fresh out.
Byron Buxton (OF, Minnesota Twins)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. The fabled legend Byron Buxton is finally playing consistently and getting hits. He’s improved his plate discipline from the past couple years, dropping his strikeout rate more than 6 percentage points. He’s walking a bit more as well. One of his biggest changes is his batted ball profile. He’s rarely hitting the ball on the ground now with a fly-ball rate higher than 50%. His is the third-highest in the league. With a rate like that, it’ll be difficult to keep his average this high if those batted balls aren’t turning into homers. Expect a drop in average there. Despite this, he is hitting the ball harder than ever. Buxton still has room to improve and grow, but at least he’s making something out of his full-time MLB spot.
(Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire)