Former USC pitcher Logan Odom’s baseball career has been punctuated by transitions; his MLB prospects teetering on the edge of oblivion. For a time, Odom’s journey playing an unforgiving sport appeared it would end with a whimper at USC. Odom, however, made himself into a MLB prospect last season and was rewarded with an eighth-round draft selection by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Odom starred as a position player at North Medford High School in Medford, Ore. Despite his accomplishments, both college and professional scouts were not impressed with the tools that belied his performance.
Odom decided to attend Western Nevada Community College, where he made perhaps a life-altering decision: converting to pitching full-time.
“Really, many of my transitions sort of happened on their own,” Odom said. “I just wanted to get out on the field. That’s what makes me happy. I figured pitching was my best chance to play professional ball.”
Flashing elite potential on the mound, Odom paced Western Nevada to a third-place finish at the Junior College World Series in 2009. Hitting the showcase circuit with his team, Odom caught the attention of USC hitting coach and recruiting coordinator Doyle Wilson.
“I went to a showcase in Las Vegas, and [Wilson] saw me there and talked to me shortly after that,” Odom said. “He then invited me to visit, and the rest is history.”
It was not quite that simple for the 6-foot-6 right-handed pitcher. Pitching almost exclusively out of the bullpen for the Trojans in 2010, Odom sported a 7.01 ERA in 43 and two-thirds innings pitched, nearly walking as many batters as he struck out.
Despite a disappointing season, Odom never wavered.
He set out to make adjustments, playing for the Mankato MoonDogs of the Northwoods League during the offseason and dazzled there, striking out almost a batter per inning.
“I put in a lot of work during the summertime,” Odom said. “I played in a summer league out in Minnesota. I received a lot of good coaching advice. [Former USC pitching coach] Tom House was a huge influence on me and helped me out a ton.”
After a successful summer and House’s tutoring, Odom nailed down a spot in USC’s starting rotation entering his senior season.
The turnaround was stunning, as the sinkerballer nearly halved his ERA to 3.96 and began to limit the amount of free passes he surrendered.
Endearing himself to Trojan fans, he experienced his greatest success against a talent-laden UCLA squad, tossing a combined 14 and one-third innings against UCLA over two starts, giving up one run.
MLB scouts took note.
Despite Odom’s marked improvement, few draft projections ticketed him for a selection before the 10th round, and some even had him as low as the 40th round. In a potentially historic draft with more high-end pitching talent available than ever before, Odom was not sanguine about his chances of beating those projections.
But then the Angels called.
“I was extremely excited,” Odom said. “The Angels are a classy organization. It was nice going in the eighth round — it wasn’t what I expected. The draft is a crazy process, and I couldn’t have asked for much more.”
As awe-inspiring as it can be to reminisce, however, Odom must transition to a professional pitching regimen, while also refining his mechanics and repertoire.
In his first start for the Orem Owlz — an Angels affiliate — in the Pioneer League, Odom lasted only one plus inning. Although he did not surrender a run, his peripheral statistics show where he needs to make his biggest professional adjustment: honing his command. In that one inning, he walked three batters and hit one.
“My sinker is probably my greatest strength — getting groundballs,” Odom said. “I need to work on my consistency. That’s the main difference between college and professional ball. In pro ball, you need to execute pitches all the time or you won’t last long.”
Although his transition to professional baseball has been marked by change — from the junior college ranks, switching positions and transitioning from a reliever to a starting pitcher —Odom has stayed the course.
Now, as a draftee of the Angels, it is difficult to bet against the young right-hander finding a way to make it work.