clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Marcell Ozuna is more than an ‘impact bat’

Ozuna brings more to the table than a big bat

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today it was reported that the Cardinals had finally made an offseason splash. Just a short while after twelve central time, it seemed that the Cardinals had a deal in place for Marlins slugger Marcell Ozuna. Although all of the pieces involved in the trade are unknown as I write this, it is widely accepted that prospect Sandy Alcantra is the main piece of the deal.

Back in October, I wrote a piece examining the possibility of trading for Ozuna. At the time, the Stanton trade was on the table as well. However, I expected the price for Stanton to be too high, forcing the Cardinals to shift their focus to another outfielder. Although it was not the price that ended the Stanton pursuit, the front office ultimately arrived at Ozuna, perhaps with a bit more fan support than in October.

Many are extremely pleased with this acquisition, primarily because he is the “impact bat” the Cardinals have needed for some time now. The 27 year old outfielder—who won’t be 28 until November 2018—certainly provides power. He hit 37 home runs and drove in 124 in 2017. Many are quick to point out, however, that last season may not be a breakout, but rather, the best season he will ever have.

This argument is more than fair. Ozuna has not produced at an elite level with the same consistency as many of the other big names out there—i.e. Stanton and Martinez. At the same time, 2017 was not Ozuna’s only successful season in the major leagues. In 2014, he posted a wRC+ of 116. After struggling in 2015, he bounced back and put up a wRC+ of 106 the next year. Suffice it to say that Ozuna may never replicate his 2017 numbers, but that does not mean he will not be an extremely productive St. Louis Cardinal.

Aside from his power numbers, Ozuna shores up the outfield. What had once projected as Fowler-Pham-Piscotty—an upper tier national league outfield—has now become one of the best trios in the game today. Notably, this also allows the Cardinals to explore trading Piscotty to the Athletics, where he can be closer to his mother with ALS. Slotting Ozuna in left will allow Fowler to move to right, which appears to be the best alignment defensively.

Although he is not known for his glove, Ozuna had a UZR/150 of 2.9 in over 1,000 innings in left field this year. He might be better than that given his UZR/150 over more than 3,000 innings in center field was essentially breakeven. For context, Fowler’s UZR/150 in center this year was -9.9, which is in line with his career numbers there. In left, Pham’s rating was 11.5, and he has generally positive numbers in the outfield for his brief career. That the Cardinals view him as the best center fielder helps to confirm his prowess.

Going into 2018, as has already been widely discussed, Pham ought to be in center—he is the team’s best defensive outfielder. Logically, the teams next best outfielder would take over in left. With this trade, that title has fallen to Ozuna. The former Marlin also brings stability to the lineup—he played 159 games in 2017 and 148 games the season prior.

Additionally, Ozuna is by no means only a home run hitter. His hard contact% has increased in each of the last three years to a career high of almost 40% in 2017. For a comparison, that is right around Grichuk’s career average, and we know how hard he can hit the ball. Furthermore, his K% is well below Grichuk’s and his BB% is much higher. This probably seems obvious, but it indicates that Ozuna is not a one-dimensional hitter.

Ozuna is the most well-rounded middle of the order bat acquisition since Carlos Beltran. This trade provides great reason for excitement going forward—both for the stability he brings to the outfield and for his complete profile at the plate—and he is arbitration eligible for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. With this move, the Cardinals have helped position themselves to contend for each of the next two years.