Marcell Ozuna Is Key to a Young and Talented Marlins Outfield
With regard to discussing the Miami Marlins' outfield talent, most of our time is spent on Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, and for good reason. However, left fielder Marcell Ozuna -- the lone 2016 All-Star among this trio -- could help take this group to another level.
If Ozuna stays on the path he has been on through the first two weeks of the 2017 campaign -- one he has traveled down already in his big league career to some capacity -- then this could arguably be the best outfield in all of baseball.
Will the Real Marcell Ozuna Please Stand Up?
Even with the small sample size horns blaring loudly, Ozuna has been nothing short of fantastic through 15 games, slashing .339/.385/.610 with a 168 wRC+. Still, it's hard not to get excited about the potential of the 26-year-old.
He's got the talent to be a great ballplayer, but it's been a bit of a roller coaster throughout the course of his career. Check out the fluctuations some of his offensive numbers have gone through between 2013 and 2016. Some of the statistics highlighted below include Isolated Power (ISO), on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS), batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and wRC+.
The 2014 season looked to be his breakout campaign -- which included a 3.9 fWAR and 23 home runs -- but he's seemingly bounced between below average and above-average production throughout his career. Last year was a nice bounce-back performance, though, as he once again hit 23 homers and produced a 2.7 fWAR.
His BABIP doesn't move all that much, so we can't pin this on good or bad luck. However, his fluctuating ISO shows a correlation between his performances -- his good seasons come with a lot of power, but it disappears during the bad ones. In his two worst season above, which were 2013 and 2015, he hit a total of 13 home runs. That pales in comparison to '14 and '16, when he combined for 46 dingers.
That seems to be the key since some of his other peripheral numbers also haven't changed much from year to year. With a career-high 7.1% walk rate last season, he's proven to not be overly selective at the plate. His career fly-ball rates all vary between 30.0% and 36.0%, as well.
According to the pattern he's formed in the above table, he's due for a year around a 90 wRC+ in 2017, but is doing his best thus far to buck that trend. His ISO is currently sitting at .271 (along with a .385 BABIP), so regression could hit him sooner or later. But despite that, he's proven he can be an above-average performer in the big leagues. If he can improve his power overall -- like Yelich has -- he can be a real force to be reckoned with.
The Other Talented Players
Consistency from Ozuna is key for this group because Yelich and Stanton have already established themselves as two of MLB's more talented young outfielders.
Stanton has continually been a hitter with a scary amount of power, but did falter a bit in 2016. Between 2011 and 2015, he was incredibly productive -- his lowest homer total was 24 and the worst wRC+ he produced was 137. So, even when he was "off" or not on the field because of injury, he was still far better than a replacement-level player.
However, he hasn't performed up to the standard he set earlier in his career between last year. Through 470 plate appearances in 2016, he slashed just .240/.326/.489 with a 114 wRC+, which is a far cry from his career marks of .265/.356/.537 and a 141 wRC+. He still would've been a welcome addition to any of the other 29 MLB teams, but he just wasn't the Giancarlo Stanton we've come to expect.
On the other hand, Yelich's power emerged as he had a career year in 2016.
|Year||OPS||BABIP||wRC+||Fly-Ball Rate||Home Runs|
He's been an above-average -- and very consistent -- hitter throughout his career, but an increased fly-ball rate fueled Yelich's power surge. Between 2013 and 2015, he hit just 20 homers, but surpassed that total in only one year's worth of plate appearances last season.
A Ton of Potential
In 2016, there were only 41 qualified hitters who played the outfielder that registered a wRC+ above 100, and if everything goes to plan in 2017, the Marlins could have three all to themselves.
That's a situation that only happened twice last season, albeit with some caveats. The New York Mets had Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce amongst this group, but Bruce didn't spend all year in New York and was mostly terrible after being acquired from the Cincinnati Reds. The Chicago Cubs were the other squad, with Kris Bryant, Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist, but Fowler was the only one to actually play in the outfielder on a daily basis.
The Marlins' outfield can be truly unique amongst their peers, and the early returns are looking great so far.