Over the last half-decade, the Rangers' front office has placed a premium on acquiring talent in the middle of the diamond; that is, middle infielders, center fielders, and Jorge Alfaro (who is the only catcher of real consequence in the farm system).
The infield collection is at various stages of development, but it's deep, a list that includes Jurickson Profar, Rougned Odor, Luis Sardinas, Travis Demeritte, 2014 draftees Ti'Quan Forbes and Josh Morgan, as well as 17 year-olds Yeyson Yrizarri and Michael De Leon, whom they signed internationally as their big bonus babies in 2013.
On the outfield side of things, there's Lewis Brinson (their top pick in the 2013 draft), Nick Williams (their 2nd rounder that year), along with Nomar Mazara and Jairo Beras (who project more as corner outfielders down the road.)
The lists go on, but it feels superfluous to mention everyone.
As you can see, Texas are deep. Some will wash out -- as is the nature of the prospect universe -- some will be traded, and the rest will be collecting massive paychecks in Arlington. It's a beautiful sport.
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Of the whole compendium, to me Rougned Odor is the most interesting. The majority of the aforementioned list are at least two or three years away from meriting serious consideration for the big league club; Jurickson Profar's status as the #1 prospect in baseball has already been proven; Luis Sardinas, the least of Texas's current glut of middle infielders (he, Odor, Profar and Elvis Andrus), looks to be more of a utility player;
Rougned Odor, though. He's very likely to be a second baseman on a lot of playoff teams. We just don't know if that's going to be the Rangers.
From a video game standpoint, the logjam in Texas's infield would be cured with excessive simplicity: Just trade Elvis Andrus. After all, Elvis is on an island within the quartet in making more than the league minimum. Although $15 million AAV isn't star player money, it's still 30 times more than any of Profar/Odor/Sardinas, and that's a significant chunk of paper when put in those terms.
However, there's more than just money to consider with Elvis. For starters, along with ace Yu Darvish and veteran Adrian Beltre, he is one of the faces of the franchise. (And I don't mean that in a Michael Young sort of way; I mean he is really, really good and justifies the contract he was signed to.) His value to the franchise goes beyond the diamond.
Then there's Jurickson Profar, whom many forget was MLB's top prospect as recently as last year. He hasn't been around during 2014's miserable campaign, but it's not as if the Texas's front office have forgotten about him, and it's foolish to think they would even consider trading him during the offseason -- selling extremely low -- to make room for Odor, who is nowhere near the same prospect class.
This is why Rougned Odor's timing with the Rangers is so unfortunate, because there aren't a lot of avenues for Texas to travel through that don't hinder the future. With so much talent in the middle infield, it would be easy to drop a cliché like it's a good problem to have, but it's not. It's an actual problem, and problems are bad.
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The issue I have with the Trade Elvis camp are the amount of unknowns. Since his rookie season in 2009, only Troy Tulowitzki (+28.8 fWAR), Hanley Ramirez (+22.6), Alexei Ramirez (+18.2) and Jose Reyes (+18.0) have generated more Wins Above Replacement than Andrus (+17.5) according to FanGraphs. To replace him with Jurickson Profar at shortstop -- which would be the case if Elvis was moved -- would cost the team defensively, and the Rangers would also be losing defense at second base by replacing Profar with Rougned Odor.
At the very worst, Andrus is a sure thing, which is something we can't yet say about the duo the organization would be rolling with in his stead.
Odor brings with him a lot of promise, so much that Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections for 2014 put Robinson Cano as his player comparison. Although it's nearly impossible to assign a Hall-of-Fame trajectory for any 20 year-old -- unless his name is Mike Trout -- all of Roogie's minor league plate appearances have been thrown into a formula, and that formula spit out a name that happens to be the best 2nd baseman of our generation. That isn't nothing, but it's still difficult to say it's something at this raw stage of Roogie's career.
Rougned Odor was born in 1994, making him the youngest player in MLB, and making me feel like the oldest 24 year-old blogger this side of the Mississippi. In nearly 300 plate appearances, Rougned has held his own, batting a respectable .252/.289/.378 (78 wRC+) while being worth exactly 0.0 fWAR.
He's been a vague facsimile of what Jurickson Profar was offensively (.234/.308/.336, 75 wRC+) last year in his age-20 season.
But before we decide to get all crazy and anoint Odor the Rangers opening day second baseman in 2015, consider the sentence that precedes this one: Profar received flack for underperforming in his age-20 season -- probably because he was the #1 prospect in baseball and more was expected earlier on -- and Rougned has basically been given the keys to a starting job, by some/most fans, for accomplishing virtually the same amount. Profar seismically outclasses Odor from a prospect perspective, and him losing a year from an inconsequential teres minor shoulder injury affects him much less than most tend to lead on. His career isn't in jeopardy, and it's still way too premature to slap on him the "injury prone" label. He's fine.
Profar's presence from the 2014 Rangers is much like the count's boots in Miss Julie: He's always been here without actually, physically being there. It's his existence that puts Rougned Odor's role in Texas in question.
There are a few ways the Rangers can go about this, but since I've already written at some length about each of them I'll use this section for the (semi) abridged version:
1) The most likely scenario is 2015 opens up with Elvis Andrus at shortstop, Jurickson Profar at second base, and Rougned Odor in Triple-A to help his progression. Since next year figures to be Texas's true all-in season -- given the contract situations of Yu Darvish and Adrian Beltre -- the Andrus-Profar combo up the middle provides the Rangers their best chance to win now.
Odds of becoming reality -- 5:3
2) Trade Elvis Andrus, use Profar at SS and Odor at 2B. This is the fantasy baseball dream; just use the savings from Elvis's contract to help sign one of the top pitchers in free agency, whether it be Max Scherzer, James Shields or Jon Lester. It looks good, ostensibly, but then Texas would be subjecting a 22 year-old Profar and a 21 year-old Odor to be prime contributors during what is supposed to be a competitive season. It's just hard to project either to be more than 2-win players, and that might not be enough to get the Rangers to the dance.
Odds of becoming reality -- 15:1
3) Trade Rougned Odor as part of a package to acquire a slugging corner outfielder. Is this the offseason Giancarlo Stanton gets traded? How about Carlos Gonzalez? Jason Heyward or Bryce Harper? Probably wishful thinking. To ascertain the type of lineup-altering force the Rangers would want, it would require more than just Roogie; it would likely take him plus either Chi-Chi Gonzalez or Luke Jackson, plus two of Texas's stud minor league outfielders (assuming Jorge Alfaro and Joey Gallo are completely off the table in discussions). By trading Odor, the Rangers would have their middle infield combination in cement for the foreseeable future and end all this speculation coming from me.
Odds of becoming reality -- 12:1
Arbitrary odds aside, the Rangers have a dilemma. They put themselves in this situation -- partially from having too much quality talent -- but now it's the front office's task to create a resolution.
Should, however, the club expect to compete in 2015, I have a hard time believing -- regardless of how much promise Jurickson Profar and Rougned Odor bring to the table -- that they will be able to roll out two of the youngest players in MLB at two of the most important positions on the diamond, and succeed right away. Elvis Andrus is a constant; he's really good and we know that we can expect him to be really good in the coming years; Profar's injury has essentially made him an immovable part in this paradigm -- he's going to be here whether or not Andrus or Odor are.
For Rougned, his ascension through the farm system has been rapid. He's going to be a quality major league 2nd baseman... I'm about 85% confident in that. But his arrival to Arlington comes with disappointing timing, as he's the favorite to be the middle infield roster casualty to help make the club better.
This is going to be a hot-button issue during the offseason, so we might as well get it out of the way now.
What do you think the Rangers should do? "Fire Jon Daniels" is not an option.