Marcell Ozuna, the Marlins slugger not named Giancarlo Stanton



Guillermo Heredia Jersey #64

This might be the upset of the young 2017 season: A righty-hitting outfielder hit the most impressive homer of the season, and it wasn’t .

Elite Guillermo Heredia Jersey

That’s a matter of opinion, but if you haven’t seen where ’s homer reached last Wednesday at Tropicana Field, check it out:

Womens Guillermo Heredia Jersey

If it seems like there have been more home runs this season, that’s because there have been. Teams have combined for 1.18 homers per game so far, an increase on last season’s long ball spike (1.16). If it keeps up, this would be the highest rate in big league history, and we have yet to reach the warm weather months. But it’s not just the number of home runs, it’s the really long homers, the majestic kinds like the one Ozuna hit against the Rays.

Limited Guillermo Heredia Jersey In reality, we’re not seeing more of these impressive shots. About 11.2 percent of home runs this season have traveled at least 430 feet, according to Home Run Tracker, which is actually down from 11.7 percent at this point a season ago. But because of the current ubiquity of highlight clips, it can feel like there have been more. That’s not the fault of Ozuna, who is hitting the ball harder and farther more often than ever.

Guillermo Heredia Jersey #64 Editor’s PicksRanking every MLB lineup: Who has passed the Cubs?The North Siders have the names, the Yankees have Aaron Judge and the Nationals may not be as good as you think. From 1 to 30, here’s what we like (and don’t like) about each team at the plate.

According to the Statcast data at baseballsavant.com, Ozuna has increased his average exit velocity from 90.7 mph to 93.2, ranking 13th in the majors. That number jumps to 99 mph when he gets the ball in the air, which is the 10th-best number in the majors. And his 16 barreled balls — defined as a well-struck ball with an estimated batting average/slugging percentage above .500/1.500 — through Monday’s action rank fifth. Ozuna is barreling up balls more than twice as often as he did a season ago. All of that mashing is paying off for Ozuna, who is hitting .325/.387/.634, all career-best marks, and has a .359 average on balls in play.

At 26, Ozuna should be in the early stages of his career peak, and all of this might simply reflect a super-talented player finally putting it all together.

There haven’t been any stark changes in Ozuna’s approach, but his plate discipline numbers are improved. His walk rate (9 percent) is his best yet. According to TruMedia, his chase rate (29.9 percent) is his best yet, and while that’s far from an elite figure, sometimes a little patience has big results, especially since opposing pitchers are giving him fewer offerings in the zone.

Overall, he’s swinging at about half of the pitches he sees (49.9 percent), a rate 3 percent higher than 2016. So the small sample evidence is that Ozuna is laying off more unhittable pitches but raking when he sees something he likes.

Ozuna has always been regarded as a toolsy player whose over-aggression at the dish is one of his biggest enemies. At the same time, he has shown a penchant for improvement at each level, as well as an ability to handle adversity.

After struggling through the first half of the 2015 season, Ozuna was shipped to Triple-A. He returned to the Marlins 40 days later, and from that point on, he had a .789 OPS. He seemed to build on that momentum during the first half last season, when he hit .307/.360/.533 and earned a spot in his first All-Star Game.

Things fell off after that, and, indeed, consistency has been another of Ozuna’s bugaboos at the big league level. He hit just .209/.267/.342 over 2016’s second half, leading to offseason rumors that he could be had in the trade market. That didn’t happen, and so far, that has been a lucky thing for a Marlins offense that relies heavily on elite production from its outfield.

So far this season, Miami’s collective .369 weighted on-base percentage (wOBA) from the outfield ranks third in the majors behind ’s and Aaron Judge’s . Ozuna leads the way with a .437 mark, followed by Stanton’s .390 and ’s .319. And it should get better: Yelich entered the season with a .352 career wOBA and had a .376 mark last season. In other words, assuming a regression for Yelich, continued health for Stanton and newfound consistency for Ozuna, the Marlins could well emerge as the best offensive outfield in baseball.

If that happens, it could stay that way for a couple of years: Yelich is a year younger than Ozuna, and Stanton is just one year older. Stanton and Yelich have been locked up contractually for the foreseeable future, and Ozuna has two more years of team control before hitting free agency. With the Marlins franchise on the market, it’s a little unclear what their long-term payroll strategies might be. However, if Ozuna can maintain his improved approach and the accompanying results for a full season, it’s certainly possible that he remains in the long-term mix. Or he could emerge as a valuable trade piece in an effort to balance the roster.

In the meantime, keep your tape measures close when you’re at a Marlins game. Even when Giancarlo Stanton Jersey isn’t at the plate.

Comments are closed.