Is Trading Marcell Ozuna the Right Move for the Miami Marlins?
It was just one offseason ago that Marcell Ozuna was seen as one of the best young outfielders in baseball.
In 2014, his first full season in the big leagues, Ozuna batted .269/.317/.455 with 23 homers and 85 RBI in 612 plate appearances. The 23-year-old played well above average defense at all three outfield spots and posted an fWAR of 3.7 with a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 115. Ozuna, along with Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton had some people wondering if the Miami Marlins had the best young outfield in the National League heading into 2015.
People stopped wondering that by the middle of the season.
Fast forward one year later, and now the Marlins can't get rid of Ozuna fast enough. It's understandable they are disappointed in his follow-up campaign in which he batted .259/.308/.383 with just 10 homers and 44 RBI in 494 plate appearances. And his defense slipped as well, only putting up an fWAR of 1.1, to go along with a wRC+ of 89.
There were always holes in Ozuna's game. He has never walked very much throughout his minor and Major League career (6.0% average in 1397 Major League plate appearances), and he does strike out a lot (26.8% in 2014, 22.3% in 2015). But after his encouraging 2014 season, it's surprising the team is itching to pull the trigger on a trade that would send the now-25-year-old outfielder out of Miami.
So what happened? Why did Ozuna's game fall off so much? How did he go from being one of the better young players in the game to trade fodder in just one year?
For one thing, his power left him.
Ozuna's slugging percentage dropped from .455 in '14 to .383 in 2015. His isolated power fell from .186 to .124. And his home run per fly ball rate (HR/FB%) went from 16.8% to 9.3%.
Mechanical issues are said to have plagued Ozuna in 2015, which is perhaps why his hard hit ball rate fell from 38.2% to 34.5%. His ground ball percentage remained virtually the same, but he traded in some fly balls for some line drives, which is perhaps why he had 27 doubles in 494 plate appearances, as compared to 26 doubles in 612 plate appearances the year before, coupled with a drop in longballs.
He simply wasn't generating any lift, and his power production suffered as a result.
Pitchers also seemed to be working him differently last year. While he saw a small uptick in fastballs (51.3% to 53.1%), pitchers began to throw him far more sliders (19.8% to 24.3%). He was particularly vulnerable to right-handers, more so in 2015 than the season before.
In 2014, Ozuna hit .275/.323/.459 against right-handers, with a better wRC+ (118) against righties than lefties (102). In 2015, he hit .241/.288/.358 against right-handers, with a wRC+ of 76 against righties, compared to a 145 wRC+ against lefties.
Suddenly, Ozuna developed a huge platoon split.
There's no denying he struggled out of the gate last season, going through a 1-for-36 slump at one point that got him demoted to Triple-A. However, he played well in 33 games there, batting .317/.379/.558 with 5 homers, 12 doubles and a triple. And from the time of his recall on August 18, he batted .278/.320/.469 with 6 homers and 13 doubles in 172 plate appearances.
Whatever team gets him could be landing a 25-year-old who may not walk a lot or specialize in getting on base but who has 25-homer power and plays an above average defensive corner outfield.
Expect Ozuna to bounce back in 2016.