When the Braves signed Marcell Ozuna, it received mixed reviews. However, I’m not sure even the most optimistic person could have predicted what was about to ensue this season.
The 29-year-old outfielder bet on himself by taking a one-year deal, and he’s earned a boatload of cash thanks to a career-year. In just sixty games, he smoked 18 home runs and drove in 56 runs — both tops in the National League — and he finished just points away from earning the NL Triple Crown, finishing with a .338 batting average.
Freddie Freeman might end up winning the NL MVP award, and it’s well-deserved, but if we weren’t in the age of advanced analytics and defensive metrics, Ozuna very well might have taken home the award himself. He’s been that fantastic, and the Braves need him to provide the same lift he gave the Cardinals in last year’s NLDS.
I don’t mean to bring up old wounds, but now that Ozuna is on the Braves, it feels appropriate to give him credit for his outstanding postseason performance last year. The right-handed slugger was impossible to get out, smacking two homers and three doubles — good for a slash line of .429/.478/.857/1.335 — in the five games of the NLDS.
Ozuna wasn’t nearly as productive in the NLCS against the Nationals, but to be fair, nobody had much success against the Nats’ pitching in the playoffs, especially his former teammates, as they were swept in four games. He still finished his first taste of playoff baseball with a .324 batting average, .954 OPS, four doubles, and a couple of homers.
Over the last two postseasons, the Braves’ bats — which have been dynamite during the regular season — have gone silent at the wrong time, especially in the middle of the order. That can’t happen this year, given the state of their starting rotation. Atlanta needs Marcell Ozuna to terrorize the Reds just like he terrorized the Braves last season.