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Odor key to improving Rangers' offense

Second baseman showed power, now has to maintain consistency
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rangers have spent much time this winter trying to improve their pitching staff. Their offense could use a little help, too, but much of that will have to come from internal improvements and the continued development of their young players.

Second baseman Rougned Odor's name came up in that regard for the Rangers during conversations at the Winter Meetings. When it comes to offensive players who need to step up their game next season, Odor could be at the top of the list.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rangers have spent much time this winter trying to improve their pitching staff. Their offense could use a little help, too, but much of that will have to come from internal improvements and the continued development of their young players.

Second baseman Rougned Odor's name came up in that regard for the Rangers during conversations at the Winter Meetings. When it comes to offensive players who need to step up their game next season, Odor could be at the top of the list.

The 23-year-old struggled for much of 2017, but a big season in 2018 could be a huge boost for the Rangers. They believe it is there.

"He had a year where the power played but the consistency in the rest of his game, quality of at-bats and defense, we know there is more there," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "He played hurt quite a bit, which I give him credit for. He knows, he talked about it, there is more there. Hopefully we'll be able to tap into it next year."

The Rangers see Odor as a young, athletic middle infielder with both speed and power. He has the range to cover ground on defense and just needs to stay under control to avoid careless errors.

Video: HOU@TEX: Odor reaches up to make a nifty catch

Offensively, it comes back to controlling the strike zone and laying off the bad pitches. The Rangers know Odor is not going to pile up big walk totals. They just need him to cut down the strikeouts.

"He knows when he hits well," manager Jeff Banister said. "He knows where his hot zones are. It's a full commitment to sticking to that game plan and shrinking the strike zone for himself."

Odor hit 30 home runs and finished with 75 RBIs last season. But a .204 batting average and a .252 on-base percentage were inflamed by 32 walks and 162 strikeouts.

Odor struck out one time for every 4.07 plate appearances last season, the 10th-worst rate in the American League. Two years ago the ratio was a strikeout per every 5.95 plate appearances. The Rangers want to reverse the regression.

"The one thing that we did was commend him for being able to hit balls out of the strike zone, if you remember," Banister said. "There was a lot of talk about, man, this guy can hit a lot of different pitches. Now we're talking about he needs to dial it back in, right?

"It comes down to being able to control the strike zone. The thing that we don't want to do is take the aggressiveness away from a guy that can drive the ball in the gaps out of the ballpark. You just don't want to do that. There's any given pitch that he's going to hit the ball out of the ballpark."

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.

Texas Rangers, Rougned Odor