Last year there were a lot of breakouts. I am not referring to the Judges or the Bellinger’s of the world, but rather guys who had been in the Major Leagues for a while who suddenly burst into the spotlight. Examples include Justin Smoak, Chris Taylor, and the guy we are discussing today, Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna is being taken at an ADP of 47.35 according to NFBC, making him the 11th outfielder off the board. Whenever I see his name on a draft screen, I can’t seem to find it within myself to draft him. So now I am going to take a dive into his stats and see if my avoidance is justified, or if Marcell Ozuna really is the player he showed in 2017.
First off, Ozuna was overshadowed by Stanton, but really did have an MVP type season last year. He batted .312 while hitting 37 home runs and getting 124 RBI, very impressive numbers indeed. However, we all know the numbers from last year, the real question is can he repeat it?
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Ozuna is not a .355 BABIP hitter. So expect a drop in average in 2018. He did have a .337 BABIP in 2014 and a .320 BABIP in 2015. So even if the average does drop, I don’t think it will be a drastic one. I would expect somewhere around .290 to be a pretty solid projection, which is a reasonable assumption considering STEAMER has him batting .294 and ZIPS has him at .278.
So outside of the average, what improvements did Ozuna show that can back up his 2017 season? His walk-rate did jump from 7.1% to 9.4% which suggests he saw the ball better. His strikeouts also rose, but his 2016 strikeout total of 18.9% seems like an outlier and his 2017 strikeout total was more in line with his career numbers, so I am not concerned on that front.
His hard-hit rate also rose a bit, going from 37.4% to 39.1%, but again coinciding with that his soft contact rate rose 1%. He actually regressed in the GB/FB department, as he went from 1.20 in 2016 to 1.41 in 2017. So Ozuna hits the ball on the ground a lot.
Of course, he has a new team now too. One that is by all accounts is similar to Miami. Miami was 11th in runs scored and the Cardinals were 13th in runs scored last year. The difference between these two teams is he doesn’t have Stanton in the lineup overshadowing him. He is the guy expected to produce in the middle of the order. It’s why the Cardinals acquired him. Assuming they bat him 3rd, he will have two high OBP guys in Carpenter and Pham or Fowler in front of him. Which gives him plenty of RBI opportunities like he did back in Miami, though asking him to get 124 again is a tall order, one that I think he can’t fill.
So where does that leave us? We have a 27-year-old who was always expected to produce and finally did in 2017. Looking at the stats, we can find reasons to trust or doubt him heading into the 2018 season. We always tend to look for numbers that justify our biases. It all depends on your perspective. I remain skeptical, but I am a skeptic at heart. I think I’ll just take Justin Upton at around the same ADP and call it a day.