Atlanta Braves Player Previews: Marcell Ozuna Makes his Return

Former(?) Atlanta Braves left fielder Marcell Ozuna. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Former(?) Atlanta Braves left fielder Marcell Ozuna. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Marcell Ozuna looks set to return to the Atlanta Braves in 2022. After missing an extended period last season, what can the team expect from Ozuna?

After signing an extension with the Atlanta Braves prior to the 2021 season, Marcell Ozuna was poised to be a mainstay in the middle of the lineup. Unfortunately, last season did not go as planned for “The Big Bear.”

An injury and an off-field issue limited Ozuna to only 48 games during the season. Those 48 games did not go well, as Ozuna hit .213/.288/.356 7 HR, 21 R, 26 RBI, .284 wOBA, 73 wRC+, and 68 OPS+.

A forgettable year for the slugger.

If we take a deeper look at the metrics, maybe Ozuna would have turned it around:

  • .268 xBA
  • .460 xSLG
  • .347 xwOBA
  • .410 xwOBAcon

This suggests Ozuna was hitting into some tough luck. Even his .244 BABIP was far lower than his career .315 number which would suggest some bad luck.

Ozuna’s defense was not an issue in the small sample. In 411.1 innings in left field, he had a 4 DRS.

Would Ozuna have turned it around? We will never know that answer, but there is hope he can bounce back in 2022 and provide that power in the middle of the order.

Marcell Ozuna projections

It is tougher to make projections on a guy who missed so much time. Even projection models have a harder time projecting him due to the low number of games played last year.

Projection models:

  • ZiPS DC: .263/.333/.464 28 HR, 76 R, 100 RBI, 4 SB, .342 wOBA, & 111 wRC+
  • Steamer: .264/.340/.468 28 HR, 81 R, 91 RBI, 3 SB, .345 wOBA, & 113 wRC+
  • THE BAT: .268/.343/.482 25 HR, 71 R, 68 RBI, 3 SB, .351 wOBA, & 117 wRC+
  • ATC: .265/.342/.479 27 HR, 73 R, 84 RBI, 2 SB, .350 wOBA, & 116 wRC+
  • FGDC: .263/.337/.466 28 HR, 79 R, 95 RBI, 4 SB, .343 wOBA, & 112 wRC+

The projections do believe in him, the biggest issue is the number of games predicted, which hold down the counting stats. The solid slash line and wRC+ shows that projections still believe in Ozuna’s bat though.

It is personally hard to project Ozuna because of his last three seasons.

  • 2019: .241/.328/.472 29 HR, 80 R, 89 RBI, 12 SB, .257 BABIP, .336 wOBA, 110 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR
  • 2020: .338/.431/.636 18 HR, 38 R, 56 RBI, .391 BABIP, .444 wOBA, 178 wRC+, 2.5 fWAR
  • 2021: .213/.288/.356 7 HR, 21 R, 26 RBI, .244 BABIP, .284 wOBA, 73 wRC+, -0.3 fWAR

Last year is one to throw out because of the injuries and off the field issues.

He had a phenomenal 2020 season, but it is difficult to put stock in that season because it was just a two-month sample. Sure, it was an elite season, but would he have kept that up for 162?

Then in 2019, he had a great season, but faced tough BABIP luck that year. So, what can we project for Ozuna?

It is probably somewhere in the middle of his 2019 and 2020 season. That seems like a good place to start.

While Ozuna is often thought of as a slugger, he does not strike out as much as one might think (21.2% strikeout rate). He also is willing to take his walks as shown by a career 8% walk rate.

We know the Braves should have one of the better offenses in baseball again in 2021 and Ozuna projects to hit right in the middle. There will be plenty of RBI opportunities.

Defensively, if he is the designated hitter, he will spend his time in left field. While he may not have an elite arm, he has never posted a negative DRS in his career in left.

DRS in LF:

  • 2014: 1 DRS
  • 2016: 1 DRS
  • 2017: 7 DRS
  • 2018: 3 DRS
  • 2019: 3 DRS
  • 2020: 0 DRS
  • 2021: 4 DRS

Even if someone does not trust defensive runs saved, that is an impressive feat for Ozuna. He will not be winning a gold glove, but there is hope he could play reliable defense in left field on occasion.

My personal projection for Ozuna in 2022: .260/.340/.465 31 HR, 85 R, 95 RBI, 115 wRC+, 3.0 fWAR

If Ozuna gets back to his old ways at the plate, then the Braves add another big bat to this lineup. A lineup that will be scary for opposing pitchers to face.

Next. My... Soroka!. dark

It will be like the Braves made a trade without making a trade.