Jim Bowden of The Athletic released his top ten left fielders in baseball this morning, and coming in at #5 is the Braves’ newest addition, Marcell Ozuna.
Unsurprisingly, Nats phenom Juan Soto topped the list after finishing with a 4.6 WAR last season and capping it off with a World Series title. Michael Brantley, Austin Meadows, and Tommy Pham were the other three players that were in front of Ozuna. But if you were judging purely off WAR, Ozuna might not have even made this list.
The two-time All-Star only posted a 1.9 WAR last year for the Cardinals, which was only ahead of two players on Bowden’s top ten — Andrew Benintendi (1.8 WAR) and Eloy Jimenez, who was a rookie that only played in 122 games last year. So why is Bowden still so high on Ozuna entering his age-29 season? Here’s a little excerpt from his piece:
He’s been plagued with shoulder injuries over the last couple of years but has worked diligently in the weight room to overcome them. The Braves believe the shoulder will be as strong as ever and that he’ll benefit playing half of his games at Truist Park in Atlanta, more of a hitter-friendly park than Busch Stadium. The metrics say that he could have a rebound season for the Braves, as shown by his hard-hit percentage, which was in the 96th percentile; his exit velocity, which was in the 93rd percentile; and both his xSLG and xwOBA past the 90th percentile as well.
This offseason, Ozuna was looking for a multi-year deal in a similar range to what Josh Donaldson received from the Twins. However, his back-to-back “down years” with the Cardinals didn’t warrant anywhere near the $80-$100 million he was hoping for. So instead of taking a multi-year contract with less AAV, Ozuna settled for a one-year prove-it deal, betting on himself. And if he can post similar numbers to the ones Donaldson did last season, he will be in for a massive payday.
Of course, all of this is dependent on their actually being a baseball season. The most recent offers by both the players and owners are not going to get it done. Their needs to be compromise on each side for baseball to return. If not, we may never even see Ozuna in a Braves uniform. Fortunately, it does neither the players or the owners any good for there to be no season, and there is still time for a deal to be completed. Hopefully, the two sides start to come together over this next week.
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