Marcell Ozuna Is Going to Be a Big Boost for the St. Louis Cardinals
Last week, the St. Louis Cardinals failed to land the hitter they most wanted this off-season with the Miami Marlins sending Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees after Stanton refused to waive his no-trade clause to play in St. Louis.
That was certainly a bummer for Cardinals fans, but they're likely feeling much better now.
St. Louis has instead traded for Stanton's teammate, Marcell Ozuna, in exchange for a package of four prospects. Ozuna, just 27 years old, was one of the best outfielders in all of baseball last season and remains one of the more underrated players in the game. And while he's been good for a few years now, he became a superstar last season. fWAR is his Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs' algorithms, and wRC+ is weighted runs created plus, which compares a hitter's expected run output to the league average while accounting for the hitter's league and park factor with 100 being average.
Ozuna went to his second straight All-Star Game last season and won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger, his first in each of those categories. He also finished 15th in the National League MVP voting.
His 4.8 fWAR was 12th best in the NL, and his rWAR (5.8) -- as calculated by Baseball Reference -- was ninth best. He was 7th in the NL in batting average, 10th in slugging, 4th in hits (191), 4th in total bases (336), tied for 3rd in homers, 3rd in RBIs, and 5th in OPS+ (145).
Any way you slice it, Ozuna became a star last year, and he joins a Cardinals offense that was in desperate need of some pop.
Cardinals got a .246/.338/.425 batting line from their No. 3 hitters in 2017 and a .270/.350/.444 batting line from their No. 4 hitters. Marcell Ozuna slashed .312/.376/.548 with 37 HR and 124 RBI.
— Drew Silva (@drewsilv) December 13, 2017
Last season, the Cardinals ranked 8th among 15 NL teams in dingers (196) and were 7th in runs scored (761). As a team, their isolated power (ISO) ranked 9th in the NL (.170), and their slugging percentage was 10th (.426). Ozuna immediately becomes the second-best position player on the team, joining an outfield that should be one of the better units in the NL.
Tommy Pham had a breakout season for the Cardinals in 2017 (6.4 rWAR, 5.9 fWAR), hitting .306/.411/.520 with 23 homers and 25 stolen bases, and Dexter Fowler is still pretty darn good at doing baseball things, batting .264/.363/.488 last season with 18 homers and a wRC+ of 121.
And while the Cardinals had five players hit at least 20 homers, no one hit more than 25 (Paul DeJong). Ozuna's 37 dwarf those numbers. And Ozuna may still be getting better.
Last season, he increased his walk rate to 9.4% from 7.1% in 2015 and upped his ISO to .237 from .187. One of the reasons for his improvement was swinging at more pitches in the strike zone last year (73.1%) than the year before up from (66.5%). Most of his other plate-discipline numbers stayed the same.
There's no doubt Ozuna makes the Cardinals a more dangerous offensive ballclub. He's now their best power hitter, and St. Louis got him without giving up one of their top-five prospects.
Not a bad consolation prize for missing out on the Mighty Giancarlo.