Miami Marlins Season Preview: Best case scenario for Marcell Ozuna

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We continue our Miami Marlins season preview series with a look at a best case scenario for center fielder Marcell Ozuna in 2015. This morning, we discussed a potential worst case scenario for the 24-year-old’s third major league season, courtesy of my co-editor Ehsan Kassim.

Marcell Ozuna’s first two seasons with the Marlins were a tale of two very different players. In July, 2013 the Marlins called him up after having seen just 47 plate appearances at the Double-A level, and coming off a full season with Single-A Jupiter in 2012. That strategy worked with Jose Fernandez; Marcell Ozuna, had very different results.

Before his rookie campaign was cut short by injury, Ozuna often looked lost at the plate. You can’t blame him; he was nowhere near ready to face big league pitching at first, but the Marlins’ hand was forced in having to play him every day on a 100-loss team. Ozuna’s final slash line was .265/.303/.389, .304 wOBA, 90 wRC+. Not awful numbers, and he registered a 1.7 fWAR that year, so the Marlins certainly could have seen worse production from their new center fielder (he actually played more right field that year because of Giancarlo Stanton injuries.)

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That half-season of learning on the fly seemed to have paid off though. Ozuna came flying out of the gates in 2014, blasting a home run on Opening Day and slugging 23 longballs on the season. His batting line improved to .269/.317/.455, .338 w0BA, .114 wRC+. The power had always been there when he was in the minors, and his trial-by-fire in 2013 against MLB-quality pitching brought it out in earnest his first full season.

The most promising trend in Ozuna’s game is his improving walk rate. In 2013, he walked 4.5% of the time; that rose to 6.7% in 2014.

On the other hand, he swung and missed much more last year. Ozuna’s K rate jumped from 19.6% to 26.8% in 2014.

The ZiPS projections seem to think last year was not an anomoly, and grade Ozuna out with very similar numbers.

ZiPS: .279/.308/.445, .331 wOBA, 109 wRC+, 2.4 fWAR in 133 games

Ozuna was a plus-defender each of his first two MLB seasons, grading out with a 0.5 dWAR in ’13 and 1.4 dWAR in ’14. Peculiarly, ZiPS branded Ozuna with a 0.0 defensive rating in 2015. I’m not sure why (maybe it’s a typo?) but it’s hard to think his defense will fall off that much so abruptly.

The best case scenario for Marcell Ozuna would be a repeat performance of last season. He was healthy for all but the last week of the 2014 season, and the Marlins are banking on that once again (and not having to play Ichiro Suzuki in center field every day). If Ozuna can bring the strikeouts down a bit closer to his 2013 clip (ZiPS doesn’t think he will), the 24-year-old will once again be a force in the heart of the Marlins lineup.

Ozuna projects to hit sixth behind Martin Prado this year, and the rest of the lineup beneath him will probably be a black hole of strikeouts and GIDPs. The Marlins will need Ozuna’s quality bat producing at the end of what could be a massively powerful middle of the order.

And I think he will.

Follow Marlin Maniac on Twitter @MarlinManiac for all your Miami Marlins news, opinion and analysis!

Next: Worst case scenario for Marcell Ozuna in 2015

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