After placing right fielder Giancarlo Stanton on the disabled list after Monday night’s game, the Marlins recalled a top outfield prospect from AA. It wasn’t Christian Yelich, however – it was Marcell Ozuna. While Ozuna may not be ready for the major leagues, he was the only outfielder on the 40-man roster other than Kyle Jensen, who is not hitting well at all right now. Of course, the Marlins would hate to lose such pitching phenoms as Sam Dyson and Dan Jennings and Duane Below, so rather than designate one of them for assignment and recall a guy like Matt Diaz or Bryan Petersen or Kevin Mattison, they’ve decided to rush yet another prospect to The Show.
But who is Marcell Ozuna? Let’s start with the basics. His name has two l’s in it, not the one that was tweeted out by the Marlins’ official Twitter account last night.
— Juan C. Rodriguez (@JCRMarlinsbeat) April 30, 2013
He’s just 22 years old and packs 220 pounds into a 6’1″ or 6’2″ frame, depending on who you ask. Either way, he’s still growing. Baseball America rated him the 75th-best prospect in all of baseball prior to this season. He was just named the Southern League Hitter of the Week after putting up a .333/.383/.810 slash line. And all he does is hit.
Well, that last bit isn’t true. He also strikes out.
Ozuna has been with the Marlins since he signed as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2008. This is his 6th season in the Marlins’ organization. In nearly 2,000 plate appearances in the minor leagues, he has 488 hits…and 467 strikeouts.
Now, here’s the good part: when he hits, oh man, does he hit. Those 488 career hits are comprised of 106 doubles, 10 triples, and 85 home runs. Over 41% of his hits in his career have gone for extra bases. And that number isn’t buoyed by some freak season, either – in 2012, 41% of his hits went for extra bases. In 2011, the number was 42%. In 2010, it was 46%. To put those numbers into some perspective, Giancarlo Stanton routinely has an extra base rate slightly north of 50%. Superstar Ryan Braun has a rate of 42% for his career. A guy like Hunter Pence has a rate of 35%. So there is some room for encouragement with regards to what Ozuna can offer at the plate – when and if he makes contact. There’s even more room for encouragement – he has drastically reduced his strikeout rate while increasing his walk rate since he began in the minor leagues. He’s also a plus in the field – by all accounts, his range is slightly above average and his arm is tremendous. Finally, he’s got a little bit of speed – in his time in the minors he’s stolen 42 bases, while being caught just 9 times.
What’s to be concerned about? Well, he’s 22. And he has 47 at bats above A ball. And they’ve all come this season. After his rehab from a broken wrist. That drastically-reduced strikeout rate is still nearly 22%.
Ozuna is an aggressive hitter and a hard swinger, so when he makes contact he’ll be fun to watch. Given his lack of seasoning, though, I think that contact is going to be hard to come by. I’m willing to bet we’ll see a good bit of power, some nice defensive plays, and a whole pile of strikeouts. And I’m willing to bet that when Ozuna comes back to the majors for good by 2015, he turns into a guy who makes a few All Star teams.
Marlin Maniac rated Ozuna as the Marlins sixth best prospect prior to the season.