The Marlins outfield has been recognized all around baseball and when you think of the group Giancarlo Stanton is the headline. On the other hand, many look past the great year Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna had in 2014. Ozuna did it with the bat as well as on defense and according to ESPN Insider Tony Blengino, Ozuna is the next big thing.
"The franchise has a youthful nucleus, both homegrown and reaped via the same deals that stripped their 2013 club to the bone, that is ready to blossom. There are many individual gems here, most notably franchise cornerstone Giancarlo Stanton. But be sure not to miss Marcell Ozuna, who is currently standing in Stanton’s shadow."
The outfield consists of Christian Yelich in left, Marcell Ozuna in center, and Giancarlo Stanton in right. The Marlins were ranked as the best outfield in 2014, and they look to do the same this upcoming season. Miami is on point to keep the group together long term. After signing Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year contract, the Marlins have offered Christian Yelich an extension and are prepared to offer Ozuna one as well.
Ozuna who did not have a good spring in 2014, was close to losing his starting job for opening day to Jake Marisnick. Marisnick had a great spring and was always a good defender. Ozuna ended the spring on a good note and was given the edge to start and be on the Opening Day lineup. On Opening Day, Ozuna went 3-4 with a double as well as a home-run in his first at-bat. This performance foreshadowed the season Ozuna would end up having.
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Ozuna went on to have one of the most productive yet quietest seasons among the Marlins. Ozuna hit .269 with 23 home-runs and 85 RBI in 153 games played. He had an .OBP of .317 and a .455 slugging. He also provided an overly impressive 4.4 WAR. He was tied for 2nd most homers by a center fielder in the NL. In addition, he led NL center fielders in RBI and most games played. Using statistics from last season, the top three center fielders in the NL right now are Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez, and Marcell Ozuna.
How can Ozuna take his game to the next level?
In order for Ozuna to take the leap to becoming a star, he would need to cut down on the strikeouts. He was 10th in the MLB in most strikeouts, just under teammate Giancarlo Stanton. Ozuna also drew only 41 walks as he would swing at many pitches outside the zone. He is known as an aggressive hitter but if he can cut down the strikeouts and raise his walk rate, his average will boost.
Overall game includes offense and defense. Ozuna provided pretty solid defense for Miami last season and that was something that didn’t go unnoticed. Ozuna posted a defense WAR of 1.4 and maintained a fielding percentage of .985. His strong arm achieved eight outfield assists, tied for third among NL center fielders.
The Marlins are expected to be a playoff contender in 2015, and Ozuna will be a very big part of it.