In what has been one of the Braves best regular seasons in franchise history, there have been a number of tremendous surprises. Spencer Strider and Michael Harris have been arguably the two best rookies in baseball. Kyle Wright has broken out to become a 20-game winner. Dansby Swanson has put together the best season of his career. There’s a reason this team is on pace to cruise past 100 wins for the first time since 2003 when they won 101. However, the Braves also feature a few pieces that have underwhelmed — none more so than Marcell Ozuna.
Despite his domestic violence dispute from a year ago, the Braves welcomed Ozuna back with open arms. His teammates wanted him on the team, and I was hopeful that he could return to the player he was in his first season with the Braves back in 2020. Unfortunately, that turned out to be nothing more than wishful thinking.
Ozuna began the season about as abysmally as possible. Defensively, he was completely unplayable, and offensively, he might have been even worse, struggling to hit over the Mendoza Line for most of the season. Entering September, Ozuna was batting just .213 with a .653 OPS. On top of that, he continued to be a nuisance off the field, picking up a DUI a couple of months ago. Like most Braves fans, I was shocked the team decided to hold onto him, but fast forward, and it’s finally starting to pay dividends.
This month, Marcell Ozuna is hitting a much more palatable .333 with a couple of homers and a .945 OPS. Last night, he was critical to the Braves’ win, tallying a double and a homer. The eye test is also much more encouraging, as he only has eight strikeouts in his last 12 games.
Given his inability to play competent defense, I’m not sure where Marcell Ozuna slots into the Braves’ plans down the stretch and into the postseason. At the very least, he’s a quality option to have on the bench that can change a game with one swing of the bat. But if he keeps hitting the ball like this, I wouldn’t be surprised if Brian Snitker found a way to get him in the lineup more often.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire