Nearly a month ago the Marlins made the somewhat curious decision to send Marcell Ozuna down to Triple-A. Just looking at his offensive numbers — and not reading into their potential displeasure with him showing up to camp somewhat out of shape or he and agent Scott Boras’ rejection of an extension— it isn’t like Ozuna was setting the world on fire with his bat. Owner of a .249/.301/337 batting line before being sent down, it’s hard to argue something too sinister, even from the Marlins. Sure, the team could be playing service clock games, but they would hardly be alone in doing such a thing. As Ozuna continues to pile up the stats in the minors, he was hitting .322/.365/.576 with three home runs in 63 plate appearances, prior to yesterday’s game, I’m expecting to see Ozuna up sooner rather than later.
If we are to go by the service clock theory, and given Ozuna’s performance in Triple-A, it seems plausible, we would be seeing approximately seven weeks of playing for the outfielder when he’s called up. The 31-year-old Cole Gillespie shouldn’t be blocking Ozuna for long, even with Gillespie hitting a respectable .277 in 22 games. Ozuna blasted 23 big league home runs last season, however he hit just four before being sent down. It isn’t as though last year’s power came out of nowhere, particularly when accounting for the fact Ozuna hit 20+ home runs in three consecutive seasons (and in different levels of the minors) in 2011-13.
Digging a little deeper — and with a major cap tip to Baseball Heat Maps, we can take a look at Ozuna’s average fly ball distance (in feet) during his time in the show.
|YEAR||HR||FB%||HR/FB%||Fly Ball Distance||IFFB%|
An uptick in his infield fly rate in a smaller sample size has hurt Ozuna’s average fly ball distance compared to last season. Even with the pop ups, via MLB’s Statcast leaderboards, we can see Ozuna was still crushing the ball at an average exit velocity of 92.5 mph, good enough to rank in the top-50. Similarly his 33.3% Hard% contact also ranks in the top 50, though given his pop ups, it shouldn’t come as a shock to his 19.6 percent Soft% rate as below average.
Given that a hitter’s pop up rate tends to normalize around the 500 plate appearances mark and Ozuna had just 322 to his name before being sent to Triple-A, I’m confident enough to trust his other 800ish PAs. He was able to make hard contact at an above average clip and from both his years in the minors as well as last season, we know Ozuna has raw power. As frustrating as his .088 ISO has been, count me among those looking forward to seeing Ozuna back in the big leagues. He makes for an ideal bounce back candidate in that he isn’t coming off of injury, he’s young, he’s shown an ability to drive the ball and he should be easily attainable. It may not even take a trade to add him to your roster as Ozuna is owned in less than 40 percent of CBS or Yahoo! leagues and a scant 22 percent of ESPN formats. I’m buying his stock wherever I can.