A lot has been said about Marcell Ozuna in the first half of the season. He’s gone on hitting streaks, walk-less streaks, and strikeout-less streaks. He put up some very poor numbers to start the season and is now tearing through opposing pitchers, earning NL Player of the Week honors. Not everyone in Cardinal Nation was excited about the acquisition of Ozuna this offseason, though; some mourned Giancarlo Stanton’s rejection of the Redbirds, while others yearned for a holdout to instead lock down Christian Yelich. We’re nearly halfway through 2018, so it seems like a good time to check in on the performance of each of the former Marlins outfielders — who’s provided the most value through mid-June?
2018, Offense - Former Marlins Outfielders
Ozuna, hurt significantly by his slow start (73 wRC+ through May 31), is still a clear third to Yelich and Stanton at this point in the season, although he does put the ball in play more than his counterparts. BABIP hasn’t created any anomalies for the trio, as each’s 2018 BABIP is within .006 of their career averages. (It’s worth mentioning that Yelich’s sustained mid-.350’s BABIP puts him in the company of Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and J.D. Martinez. In other words, he’s really good.)
The most important thing to acknowledge here is that all three of these hitters are performing well at the plate. Even if Ozuna is performing the “worst” of all three, he’s still eight percent better than the average hitter. However, the Cardinals didn’t trade for a hitter who’s eight percent above average, they traded for a player similar to the 2017 Ozuna, who was 42 percent above average. To be fair, though, Yelich is the only one of the three who’s outperforming his 2017 self at the plate.
A surprising tidbit comes from the batted ball stats: Ozuna leads all three in Hard% (45.7%), while Stanton leads in Soft% (20.8%). Looking at expected stats, Ozuna has the largest divide between his actual results and what his quality of contact would indicate he should have. Ozuna’s xwOBA is .368, a -.039 differential, eclipsing Yelich and Stanton’s respective differentials of -.025 and -.003. It isn’t an issue of speed for Marcell, given his above-average sprint speed of 28 ft/sec. One foot above the league average, Ozuna is tied with such players as Tony Kemp, Ender Inciarte and Albert Almora Jr. — players who definitely wouldn’t be underperforming their expected stats due to speed. If Ozuna had played up to his xwOBA, his production would resemble Yelich’s 2018 value (even though Yelich’s xwOBA is in the .380s).
2018, Defense - Former Marlins Outfielders
This one is tricky, as always, since defensive metrics take so long to stabilize and aren’t even considered to be as reliable in the first place. It’s made trickier by the fact that Stanton has roughly 250 fewer innings than Ozuna has in 2018. But, this is what we have, so we’ll take it with a grain of salt. DRS ranks Yelich as the leader here, with six runs to Stanton’s five and Ozuna’s one. UZR, which is park-adjusted, favors Ozuna over Yelich, but Stanton pulls away with a huge lead. While it’s strange to see him so far ahead of both Ozuna and Yelich, it isn’t crazy that Stanton is performing well; he was a plus defender by FanGraphs’ Def stat in two of the last three years. He’s the only one of the three posting a positive number in that category on the season, as Yelich and Ozuna both sit around one run below average.
Statcast’s Outs Above Average (OAA) and and Catch Percentage Added both prefer Yelich, logging four OAA and four percent, respectively. Stanton has one OAA and 2% Catch Percentage Added, while Ozuna breaks even in both categories.
Again, it’s hard to hold these stats as absolute truth. We’re less than halfway through the season, and we’ve seen Ozuna make some great catches as well as some...spirited attempts. Nothing conclusive, but to this point, Stanton takes the victory by FanGraphs’ Def, Yelich by Statcast.
2018, Baserunning - Former Marlins Outfielders
All three are providing value on the basepaths. The bulk of Stanton’s value comes from his avoidance of the double play, which could potentially have something to do with his batted ball profile — namely that he only hits balls in play 60% of the time. About 28% of Stanton’s plate appearances end with a grounder, compared to 36.7% and 34.9% for Ozuna and Yelich, respectively. Not nearly as many opportunities, since wGDP doesn’t include lineout double plays. One would be tempted to say Yelich’s -1 wGDP could potentially stem from his place in a power-packed lineup, with more opportunities to GIDP with runners on, but the Brewers and Cardinals have nearly identical team OBP (.316 and .314).
Yelich is the clear winner when it comes to wSB, as his nine stolen bases are more than Ozuna (two) and Stanton (two) combined. UBR accounts for the other aspects of baserunning — taking the extra base on a hit, tagging up on a flyball, etc. — and again ranks Yelich as the best on the basepaths, but Ozuna puts forward some value as well.
FanGraphs’ BsR combines the three aforementioned stats to help contribute to WAR calculations, and the ranking follows the same order as UBR. Even falling behind Yelich, Ozuna is considered above-average as a baserunner (and that’s good to see from a Cardinal).
2018, WAR - Former Miami Outfielders
By WAR, Yelich and Stanton have delivered about the same value, with Ozuna lagging a little over a half-win behind. By $/WAR, Yelich has been very inexpensive, with Stanton’s production costing over three times Yelich’s (and nearly twice the amount of Ozuna’s). All three are shaping up for at least three-win seasons, but all are significantly below the production they provided last season.
As baseball fans, we often (unintentionally) put an emphasis on the “what have you done for me lately” factor. Here are the batting lines for each player since the beginning of June:
Since June 1, 2018 - Former Marlins Outfielders
Ozuna has been red hot. Over the past three weeks, he’s absolutely raked — even though Yelich and Stanton have still put up some solid offensive numbers, Ozuna has blown them out of the water. If he continues to produce even close to this level, he could very well catch up to his former teammates as the season progresses. That 73 wRC+ through the first two months of the season is long gone, and the season-long 108 wRC+ might soon be old news as well.