DeShields, Odor key to revving up offense

Both blossomed in '15 -- but still have big upsides

March 12th, 2016

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers were third in the American League with 751 runs scored last season, a significant jump up from 637 that crossed the plate in 2014.

It might be expecting too much for another 114-run increase this season but the Rangers still expect their offense to be better in 2016. Much of that centers on the belief that center fielder Delino DeShields and second baseman Rougned Odor are only going to keep getting better.

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The Rangers pretty much know what kind of production they are going to get from the rest of their veteran lineup. DeShields and Odor are the two who may have significant untapped upsides.

"That's fair to say," manager Jeff Banister said.

They were both good in 2015.

DeShields made the team as a Rule 5 fifth outfielder and ended up being the Rangers leadoff hitter. When it was over, DeShields hit .261 with a .344 on-base percentage, 83 runs scored and 25 stolen bases in 121 games.

That's not bad for a player who made the jump from Double-A in 2014, but the Rangers see him growing into a force at the top of the lineup and a catalyst for a high-powered offense.

"When we put him at the top of our lineup, you saw what it did for our offense," Banister said. "There is still more room. If this is a guy who gets 650 plate appearances and has an on-base percentage in the high .300's, he can be a catalyst."

The on-base percentage can grow if DeShields can cut down on the strikeouts. He had 101 in 497 plate appearances.

"I can definitely do better with my two-strike approach and cut my strikeout rate to half of what it was last year," DeShields said. "Put the ball in play and use my God-given ability to run."

DeShields led the league with 12 bunt hits last season and was fifth with 27 infield hits. He was also tied for fifth in stolen bases, but sees ways to get better in that regard as well with left-handed hitters Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder hitting behind him.

"It's more about realizing I don't have to go on every single pitch," DeShields said. "I have an aggressive mindset when I get on first. I want to steal second right away. But with Choo and Fielder behind me, you want to leave the [left side] hole open and be ready to go from first to third. It can be just as valuable to be on first as it is on second. It's important to be in position to score, and I can do that from first on a ball in the gap. It's just being a little smarter that's all."

DeShields said his goal is to reach base 200 times and score 100 runs. He had 83 runs in 121 games last year along with 111 hits, 53 walks and three hit by pitches. His goal is realistic.

Odor showed last year what happens when a player makes a significant adjustment to cut down on strikeouts. He had 25 strikeouts in his first 103 plate appearances and was hitting .144 with a .252 on- base percentage and a .233 slugging percentage when he was sent to Triple-A on May 9.

When he returned on June 15, Odor had cut down on his big swing and started  going the other way. His strikeout rate went from one every 4.12 plate appearances to one every 6.72. Over his final 91 games, he hit .292 with a .334 on-base percentage and a .527 slugging percentage.

The Rangers are eager to see how that translates over a full season.

"He is another one of those guys with a unique skill set," Banister said. "He has some speed and some power. He also has a feel for the short game. This is a guy who will eventually be in the middle of the lineup. When he lives up to his ability, the home runs, extra bases, base hits, they are going to be there."