Why the Atlanta Braves Should Stick with Marcell Ozuna in 2023

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 20: Marcell Ozuna #20 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after a single during the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Truist Park on June 20, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 20: Marcell Ozuna #20 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after a single during the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Truist Park on June 20, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Atlanta Braves have two years left on Marcell Ozuna’s contract. After last season, many are hoping the team dumps his salary. Here’s why keeping Ozuna might be the right move.

The Atlanta Braves signed Marcell Ozuna to a one year deal during the 2020 pandemic-shortened season. Under Alex Anthopoulos’ rule, the Braves have hesitated to hand out long-term contracts to high-dollar free agents. Ozuna’s impact on the offense and on the team chemistry proved to be the exception. Ozuna finished sixth in MVP voting and led the league in homers and RBIs. He was deemed worthy of a four year deal worth $65 million.

The first year of the four year deal did not go well, to say the least. Ozuna struggled through the first two months of the season. Then on May 25, Ozuna dislocated two fingers on an awkward slide into third. He would be out for six weeks. Just days later, he would be arrested for alleged domestic abuse. The felony charges would later be reduced to two misdemeanors. Prosecutors would drop the misdemeanor just prior to the 2022 season. 

Entering 2022, there were at least some reasons to be optimistic for Ozuna to return to his previous form. The legal issues were now behind him. His fingers were healed. The Braves had a DH spot so he could be used without sacrificing defensive performance in leftfield.

However, Ozuna had not played Major League Baseball since May of 2021. Regardless of the excuses, Ozuna had a terrible season in 2022. He finished with .687 OPS and played in just 124 games. He had been kept out of the Braves lineup since August 14, leading up to his DUI arrest on August 19.  

Prior to the arrest, Ozuna had a triple slash line of .214/.263/.393.

There is hope that Marcell Ozuna can bounce back in 2023

Ozuna has traditionally demolished four-seam fastballs. He has made his bank on destroying heaters. Over the past two miserable seasons for Ozuna, he has struggled mightily against four-seamers compared to the destruction he caused against them in previous seasons.

Ozuna wasn’t squaring the ball up like in years past. This is evidenced by his increase in grounders, and pop-ups while hitting substantially fewer line drives. His average exit velocity dropped to 89.4 mph. It’s not bad, but if you consider that Ozuna is among the best in this category every season, then ranking 101st in the league is a pretty conspicuous decline.

It is worth noting, his maximum exit velocity still ranks among the league’s elite. When he makes solid contact, he’s still hitting the ball as hard as anyone. He still finished in the 93rd percentile in maximum exit velocity last season. 

Ozuna has not had a chase rate over 30% since 2016. Last season, that number reached a career-high of 33.4%. Think he was pressing?

After returning from his DUI last season, Ozuna slashed .309/.356/.564 the rest of the way. 

He’s just 32 years old with tons of pop in his bat. The last full season he played, he flirted with the triple crown. While I don’t expect a triple crown season in 2023, it is a reasonable expectation for Ozuna to shake the rust off from missing four months in 2021 and regress (or progress) to the mean.

The alternative is to dump his contract for peanuts in return. Then we get to watch him put up numbers for another team while the Braves pay the majority of his salary. Given the fact that the Braves’ couldn’t even get rid of Ozuna in exchange for Patrick Corbin’s abomination of a contract, they are going to be on the hook for his money regardless with all the luxury tax implications that come with that.

Even if Ozuna is reduced to a part-time role with the Braves, his post-DUI .920 OPS shows that he can still provide value in such a role.

How 2023 Pickoff Rules Will Hurt Charlie Morton. dark. Next

What say you? Keep Ozuna or risk giving him away and watching him rebound with another team on the Braves’ dime? Post your opinions in the comments.

facebooktwitterreddit