Talented Odor just scratching the surface

Talented Odor just scratching the surface

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rougned Odor will be on the bench for Team Venezuela during the World Baseball Classic. All-Star infielder Jose Altuve is the starting second baseman so Odor, added this week as an injury substitution, will be used mainly as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner.

He may even play third base if needed.

"I've never played it in my life but whatever my team needs," said Odor on Wednesday, reporting early to Rangers camp to get ready for the Classic.

Odor said he understands why Altuve is the starting second baseman. Altuve is a six-year veteran and a two-time American League batting champion. He also has a Gold Glove for his defense.

"He's a great guy," Odor said. "I can learn a lot from him. Like we are saying always, you can learn something new every day."

Odor is only beginning to learn how good he can be, although the Rangers were more than satisfied with what he did in 2016. Odor, who turned 23 on Feb. 3, hit .271 with 89 runs scored, 33 doubles, 33 home runs, 88 RBIs and a .502 slugging percentage for the AL West champions.

The most glaring weakness was walking 19 times against 135 strikeouts. Odor had a walk for every 33.26 plate appearances, the highest ratio in the Major Leagues last season and the second highest in Rangers history. He struck out once every 4.68 plate appearances and his on-base percentage was .296.

Outlook: Odor, 2B, TEX

The defense had good and bad. Odor's range factor of 4.87 chances per game was the best in the AL. The Rangers also led the American League by turning 190 double plays. But Odor's 22 errors were also the most by a second baseman in the league.

"I thought I had a pretty good year," Odor said. "We didn't finish like we wanted but it was still a good year. This year I want to be better on my defense and hitting."

The Rangers don't want to change Odor as a hitter. Any lineup could use that kind of power production. The goal is not for him to walk more but simply to hit his pitch when he gets it.

"You raise your on-base percentage and lower your slugging percentage, I don't think you're winning that battle," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Elite hitters don't miss their pitch. If he increases that frequency, it will be enough."

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Defensively, it all comes down to focus. The Rangers went through that with Elvis Andrus in his formative years, and now Odor is on the spot.

"If you look deep further, the advanced metrics of defense, he shows you elite range and makes the athletic play," Banister said. "But it is making the routine play that allows you to take it to the elite level.

"Focus and routine… be stubborn with your routine. Overall defense is a discipline, Adrian Beltre is disciplined as far as his fielding. That's why he is a Gold Glove elite third baseman. It takes a focus and a stubbornness on the routine."

They have another World Baseball Classic four years from now. By that time, Odor may be Venezuela's starting second baseman with others looking up to him.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.