Now, it’s Marcell Ozuna‘s turn.
The Marlins had perhaps the best outfield in all of baseball in 2014. A big part of that was thanks to Marcell Ozuna firmly planting himself on the map.
Formerly a somewhat promising also-ran minor league power prospect, Ozuna was called up to the Marlins out of necessity early in 2013. To say he struggled would be a vast understatement. Throughout his rookie season Ozuna looked largely outmatched by MLB pitching. He looked lost at times; in 291 plate appearances, hitting .265/.303/.389 with three home runs and a paltry 4.5% walk rate. He registered a .124 ISO and was replacement-level defensively, contributing to the 100-loss 2013 Marlins amidst other prospects who, like Ozuna, obviously weren’t ready for the big leagues yet.
Then, in 2014, everything just clicked.
On Opening Day, Ozuna launched the Marlins first home run of the season, and never looked back. He was a completely different player in his sophomore campaign. Ozuna slashed .269/.317/.455 and became the power hitter he was in the minor leagues; he hit 23 home runs, second on the team behind Giancarlo Stanton, and was solid on defense to the tune of 1.1 dWAR. He was worth 3.7 WAR total according to Fangraphs.
The crazy thing is he struck out a whole lot more than his rookie season: a Stanton-esque 26.8%. His ISO skyrocketed to .186 and he enjoyed a healthy .337 BABIP. He reached base at a nearly identical rate to that of his rookie season, but the power numbers (aided by 26 doubles and five triples) took Ozuna to the next level. Did he start roiding the winter before last season? I really hope not, and I really hope he can sustain those numbers next year.
ZiPS seems to think he can. The system projects a .260/.308/.445/332 wOBA for Ozuna in 2015, a near mirror image of his 2014 season.
All indications are that Ozuna has regained his minor league power stroke, and that his struggles in half an MLB season in 2013 were due to his premature call up.
ZiPS likes him to hit 19 home runs, down from the 23 he hit a year ago, but his other numbers remain very close. He still expects to strike out a lot — 26.2% to just a 6.3% walk rate — but the team can live with another 20 double, close-to-20 homer season from their center fielder. It sees Ozuna as a 2.3 zWAR player. He was worth 3.7 fWAR last year.
Ozuna will be a staple in the middle of the Marlins lineup in 2015. Should he produce like he did in 2014, the Marlins will again have one of the elite outfields in all of baseball, and maybe give the Washington Nationals a run for their money.
But it all starts with the core maintaining its production from a year ago. With such a small sample size from Marcell Ozuna so far, it’s hard to predict what he will do in just his second full season. If he can put up similar numbers to last year, though, the Marlins should be in good shape.
Next week, we’ll take a look at the ZiPS projections for the Marlins infield.