“Marcell is gonna be on our team,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said Thursday, via the AJC. “I mean, just how much he plays is gonna be determined by how well he does.”
I think most Braves were surprised by this news, and many more were disappointed. Off the field, Marcell Ozuna has been a mess, racking up two arrests in as many years — one being a disturbing domestic violence charge. On the field, he hasn’t been much better either, accruing -0.9 fWAR over the last two seasons. He looks like a shell of the player he was in his first year with the Braves back in 2020, but the organization has stood behind Ozuna every step of the way. So if you’re surprised by what Brian Snitker said, you haven’t been paying much attention.
The explanation for why the Braves have handled the situation they have is rather simple. They’ve invested money into Ozuna, which has prevented them from upgrading their left field situation. Because of that, the position is the one weak spot on the entire roster. I’m not sure if it will be figured out this season, but the player with the best chance of turning things around is Ozuna, and it’s not even close.
Eddie Rosario is a platoon player at this point in his career. Sam Hilliard has some upside, but let’s be honest; he hit .184 in 174 at-bats last season, and that was in the most hitter-friendly ballpark in Coors Field. Jordan Luplow is suffering from an oblique injury; at most, he could only start against left-handed pitchers. Eli White brings defense and speed on the base paths. He’s also off to a hot start in Spring Training, logging two homers. However, the sample size is minuscule. White didn’t all of a sudden turn into a competent offensive player overnight. He’s nothing more than a defensive replacement option.
The truth — whether Braves fans like it or not — is that Marcell Ozuna is the most likely player to fill the team’s biggest void at the moment. He doesn’t have to hit like he did during the 2020 campaign, and he most likely isn’t going to come close to that. With that being said, Ozuna has the ability to blast 25-30 homers at the back end of the lineup. That’s not something many other offenses can say, and it’s why he was always a lock to make the Opening Day roster no matter what happens this Spring.
Photographer: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire