Remaining very active in the international free-agent market, the Texas Rangers keep finding middle infielders with the ability to play Major League-quality baseball.
The most highly touted among their recent prospects was Jurickson Profar from Curacao. Others include Venezuelan Luis Sardinas and 17-year-old Yeyson Yrizarri, who was born in Venezuela but raised in the Dominican Republic. The Rangers had so much depth in the middle of their infield, in August last season, they were able to include highly regarded Leury Garcia from the Dominican Republic as part of a deal with the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Alex Rios.
With Profar on the disabled list, Sardinas is now on the Major League club. However, infield prospect Rougned Odor (pronounced Roog-ned Oh-door), probably the second-most talented infielder behind Profar, is getting the playing time as Texas' starting second baseman and the double-play partner of veteran Venezuelan Elvis Andrus.
Odor signed with the Rangers as an amateur free agent in 2011. Since the day of his signing, he has soared through Texas' Minor League system, finding himself with the big league club after playing only 329 Minor League games. Currently, Odor is the No. 2-ranked prospect on the Rangers' Top 20 list.
Odor completely skipped rookie ball. He began his career at age 17 with Spokane of the Class A Short Season Northwest League, showing both power and speed as he hit nine doubles, three triples and two home runs among his 61 hits on the way to a .262 batting average. Odor had 258 plate appearances and stole 10 bases in 14 attempts, leaving his mark as an exciting infield prospect that could fly through Texas' system.
Odor played at Class A Hickory in 2012, where he hit .259 with 10 homers and 19 stolen bases. Then he soared through Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco in 2013, hitting a combined .305 with 41 doubles, six triples and 11 home runs. Odor struck out 91 times in 569 combined plate appearances, his most ever in a season.
Before making his Major League debut with the parent Rangers on May 8, Odor was hitting .279 at Double-A Frisco. He's still only 20 years old.
The left-handed-hitting, right-handed-throwing Odor is 5-foot-11, 170 pounds. If he remains on the big league roster, it would help him to add strength to cover the hot, humid summer season. It's likely Odor will add more strength and muscle as his physical development continues.
So what makes Odor so special? He is fundamentally sound both on offense and on defense. Odor's hitting is advanced for his age, and he has that rare combination of just enough speed and increasing power coming from a slight frame.
Odor gives opposing defenses plenty to think about. He hits both left-handed and right-handed pitching effectively, allowing him to keep away from being in a platoon situation against left-handed pitching.
Odor's smooth, short and quick swing results in barrel contact, often ending in gap doubles. His hitting mechanics are extremely sound, with little to no extraneous movement impeding his swing. Odor's bat control and solid eye-hand coordination allow him to adjust to pitches quickly and make a decision to swing or take.
Unlike most players his age -- and even older -- Odor can hit breaking pitches. I'd like to see him accept more walks and lose a bit of his eagerness at the plate. I like that Odor is aggressive in his approach on both sides of the ball, but at times, he rushes his game a bit. In short, he knows he's good and wants to show it, and I have no problem with that edginess.
A good baserunner, Odor can stretch his gap line drives to triples as well. As he continues to mature physically, his power is blossoming even more.
Defensively, I have seen Odor make most of the routine plays. He has a strong and accurate second-base arm, and he makes his work in the field look easy. Odor doesn't have the best range, but his footwork is improving with repetition.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.