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The Yankees’ ideal starting lineup does not include Rougned Odor

Rougie has been extremely helpful for the Yankees this season, but once the team returns to full health, he may not play as much.

MLB: Game One-Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Rougned Odor is a flawed major league hitter. He is slashing .216/.297/.404 this season with a 92 wRC+ in 321 plate appearances, and he hasn’t been an ‘average’ batter (at least a 100 wRC+) since 2016, when he finished with a 103 mark. He had a somewhat extended chance to prove whether he could be an above-average hitter this season, under new coaches and different voices, but even in the Yankees’ latest surge, that’s who he has been: he has a 94 wRC+ in 149 plate appearances since July 6th.

However, that doesn’t mean he is useless for the Yankees. Quite the contrary, in fact: with his limitations, he has been a near league-average hitter with a good glove (he is in the 96th percentile in Statcast’s Outs Above Average), and there is value in that. He also has power from the left side, as evidenced by his 14 homers (and three 30-homer seasons in the past), and the organization loves that. He is also a great clubhouse presence and a fun player to be around, and his teammates love that.

All in all, Rougie has been a good addition for the Yankees in 2021, and he injected his enthusiasm and positive energy to the dugout. However, once the Bombers’ infield gets healthy, Odor will probably shift to a bench role with only occasional starts. He is actually a good bench player to have but at this point, if Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, and DJ LeMahieu are all healthy, his days as a regular in the lineup will be over.

The first two infielders, currently injured, are on their way back and could return to the lineup soon. Until then, the Yankees are deploying a lot of Odor, Tyler Wade, and Andrew Velazquez.

It’s important to note that the Yankees value depth. Odor will probably still end up with a decent number of starts anyway, because there is a chance Gio and Gleyber are both eased back into regular duty and don’t start every day immediately. In addition, LeMahieu has played almost every game of the season, so it’s possible that manager Aaron Boone, if the team moves closer to clinching a playoff berth, gives him a few rest days. That’s something the organization likes to do with its players.

It’s clear, however, that if the games are awfully important, and everybody is healthy enough to play, Odor wouldn’t be part of the ideal starting lineup. With five consecutive seasons of a sub-100 wRC+, it’s safe to say this is who he is at this point: a 90-100 wRC+ hitter, and while he does have 30-homer power, it comes at the expense of other things, like a career sub-.300 OBP, for example.

In a must-win series in September, or in the playoffs, it’s hard to envision Odor starting many games because in addition to the over-populated infield, the designated hitter spot is also clogged — remember, Luke Voit and Anthony Rizzo play on the same team and Giancarlo Stanton doesn’t play the field every day. Having said this, the Yankees probably need Odor if they want to keep everybody healthy and fresh come crunch time. He is still a capable infielder, and as a left-handed hitter, he can still take advantage of the good ol’ short porch in right field.

If one of the infielders has a nagging injury that needs some rest, or simply a day off, Odor’s name will be in the lineup, so he is still an important part of the roster. It’s just that, when the Yankees are at full strength, he shouldn’t be viewed as a starting option.