We are at a moment when the New York Yankees franchise is overflowing with reasons to be optimistic about the future. The team currently possesses probably the best farm system in baseball, a mountain of mega contracts are about to come off the books and they employ a man by the name of Gary Sanchez for the foreseeable future.
Things didn’t necessarily look so bright prior to this season. Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller hadn’t been converted into promising raw materials and Sanchez hadn’t happened yet. When 2016 started one of the best things the Yankees had going for them was a middle infield that could be locked in for seasons to come.
Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro looked like potential fixtures on a team full of veterans holding their spots until reinforcements could arrive. Gregorius was coming off a strong 2015 where he was a good glove-first starting shortstop and Castro looked like a great bounce-back candidate with the potential to take a step forward with a change of scenery and a less demanding position to man.
Nothing has really happened since to change the big picture in a profound way. Castro has disappointed slightly, but it’s easy to imagine this pair of 26-year-old infielders being a part of the Yankees future plans. What’s surprising is not how much value the pair has contributed but rather the shape of their production, especially lately.
In the second half of the season, the pair has gone full Rougned Odor. Now that’s not a “thing” per se, but one can infer the meaning. Right now Odor has made a name for himself with an unusual offensive profile that consists primarily of hitting a bunch of home runs and never, ever, ever walking. As Michael Baumann noted in his latest column for The Ringer, the Texas Rangers second baseman is the first player in baseball history to hit 30 home runs in a season and walk less than 3 percent of the time.
Neither Castro nor Gregorius can claim that kind of accomplishment, but their second halves have looked distinctly Odor-ian.
Very few teams are getting this kind of power production from their middle infielders, but there seems to be a cost here in terms of strikeouts and even fewer walks for a duo not known for their patience.
Castro had himself a tidy August, but it’s worth wondering if this approach is the best way for either of these hitters to go. Gregorius has broken out offensively this year, but perhaps he’s hitting a wall where trying to hard to hit for power becomes and issue. Castro was known as a hit accumulator before 2016 and that might the best way forward for him. It’s tantalizing to watch middle infielders approaching their offensive prime start to blossom as power hitters, but a balance needs to be struck and the potential for imbalance looks strong here.
There’s a reason why there’s only one Odor. His style doesn’t seem to make sense, yet it’s clearly working. Because he’s so unorthodox it’s harder to imagine what kind of staying power he has with that approach, but for now, it’s both fascinating and effective. Even so, he might not be the best role model.
Being Rougned Odor certainly works for Rougned Odor, but the jury’s out on whether it works for Starling Castro and Didi Gregorius.
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