Marcell Ozuna has put together a nice spring for the Atlanta Braves

Puerto Rico v Atlanta Braves
Puerto Rico v Atlanta Braves / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

The Atlanta Braves were in a delicate spot regarding Marcell Ozuna coming into Spring Training. Ozuna has not performed to the standard the Braves hoped he would after signing a four-year $65M contract before the 2021 season. There have also been off-field issues.

Before we go too far here, I know Ozuna has had his issues off the field. I know nearly everyone has their opinions on the situation. Some are more vocal than others. While I am sure those off-the-field issues play a role in the Braves' evaluation of Ozuna, my opinion on the situation does not matter here. Nor does anyone. We are simply evaluating the player's Spring Training performance.

Now that we got that out of the way.

Ozuna did need to come into camp and prove himself to the organization. The Braves clarified that he would be on the major league roster this season, yet there were no guarantees on what role he would play. He was not a regular in the lineup down the stretch due to a combination of off-field issues and poor performance at the plate.

Add in that the Braves brought in Sam Hilliard, Jordan Luplow, Eli White, and Kevin Pillar for LF, added Sean Murphy to bolster their catching depth, and the returning Eddie Rosario meaning Ozuna was going to have a competition for playing time.

We have spoken about how great the left field candidates have looked this Spring. While none have been proven contributors to a major-league team recently, there have been some exceptional performances from this cast. Hilliard looks like a brilliant reclamation project that the Braves acquired in November. Pillar looks like he is healthy and motivated to prove himself. White has looked like another astute find after the Rangers cut him. Thankfully he had minor league options, and the Braves could stash him in Gwinnett as he could be valuable in the event of an injury. Luplow is the only one who has not stood out, but that could be due to an injury that forced him to begin later. He also was optioned to the minors.

The point here is the Braves looked like they could go with a collection of the outside guys for a potential platoon in left field in 2023. They also could vie for the Designated Hitter role seeing as they were all hitting well.

However, the DH also gets more crowded due to the offseason acquisition of Sean Murphy from the Oakland Athletics. The Braves arguably have the best catching tandem across the league, which means they could choose to deploy either Murphy or Travis d'Arnaud at DH on days they do not catch.

There was also the returning Eddie Rosario, who suffered a lost 2022 season with an eye issue. Fellow contributor Chase Owens looked at Rosario in depth here. Throughout Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic, he has shown signs of looking normal. Some encouraging underlying numbers could mean he is in a position to contribute to the Braves either in left field or as a DH.

Which lies the issue for Ozuna. He already lost his spot at the end of 2022, and the other guys on the roster are making strong cases for playing time.

This is why Spring Training was important for Ozuna from the Braves. The off-field headaches aside, he has not performed since the beginning of 2021. In his last 715 plate appearances, Ozuna has hit .222/.278/.397 30 HR, 77 R, 82 RBI, with a .294 wOBA, & 84 wRC+. His saving grace has been the home runs. However, the .294 wOBA & 84 wRC+ leave plenty to be desired, especially for someone who should primarily only play DH.

Seeing as there is only one spot for him, the increased depth of the Braves roster makes it tougher to give struggling player playing time. Now Ozuna did see 52 games in left field, so even if we consider that a potential position (please no) for him in 2023, the current cast's performance makes it tough to get playing time. Credit to the Braves front office for building a deep roster.

All of this is being said because Ozuna has had a satisfactory spring. He has done everything he needed to do on the field to make a case for significant playing time. In 43 plate appearances, Ozuna is hitting .325/.372/.500 with 1 HR, 9 R, & 7 RBI. He has also added in 4 doubles.

They have not been cheapies either. He is hitting the ball well and making solid contact. As we approach the end of Spring Training, we do need to recognize that Ozuna's play has been solid, regardless of our opinion of the player.

If Marcell Ozuna is to be a part of the organization, and all signs indicate he will be during the 2023 season, then I would like to see him provide value to the team.

We always have to be careful not to overthink a small sample size. 43 plate appearances qualify as a small sample, meaning we should not overreact to Ozuna's spring. We have two years of poor performance leaving poor taste in our mouths. The same could be said for most of the outside guys brought in for a shot at left field.

The Braves entered the 2023 season needing to find a way to improve their performance from left field and the DH. Thankfully, there have been several guys making cases for playing time. This appears to be one of the deepest Braves' rosters in quite some time. Competition can breed excellence.

Ozuna has provided Braves fans with headaches on and off the field. Hopefully, he can be a boy scout off the field and provide the Braves some significant value in whatever role the team deploys him in pursuit of a championship.