Marcell Ozuna is one of the many surprising storylines of the Braves 2023 campaign. Once thought to be on his way out the door due to poor performance and off the field concerns, he’s turned things around considerably, looking like the guy the Braves handed $65 million after nearly winning the triple crown back in 2020.
The Braves could have released Ozuna at any point over the last couple of years and nobody would have batted an eye. His troubles began when he was arrested for domestic violence in May of 2021. He was put on administrative leave for the remainder of the season and didn’t return until Opening Day of 2022.
However, last season did not treat Ozuna much better. While he was available, he put together the worst year of his career, hitting just .226 with a career low .687 OPS. Not exactly what you’re hoping for out of your designated hitter that provides nothing defensively, and to make matters worse, he was arrested again for driving under the influence. At that point, everyone thought his tenure in Atlanta had run its course, but the Braves continued to stick by his side, allowing him to finish the season and head into 2023 with a clean slate.
When this season began, it’s safe to say the fan base was fed up with Marcell Ozuna. Every time he stepped into the batter’s box at Truist Park, he was met with a chorus of boos, and his April performance only caused them to get louder. Ozuna recorded just five hits in the first month of the season, good for a .085 batting average. It certainly felt like he could get released any day, but according to David O’Brien of The Athletic, that was not the case.
They weren’t close to cutting him. We all speculated they were, that they had to be, but I’ve since been told they absolutely were not discussing it when we all assumed they were. They felt no urgency and looked at his hard-hit rates second half of ‘22 and his spring training ‘23 https://t.co/oxORKtrCxX
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) September 23, 2023
The decision to hang onto Marcell Ozuna has worked out brilliantly for the Braves. Since May, he’s hitting .292 with 34 homers, good for a .937 OPS as he’s become a staple in the middle of Atlanta’s historically powerful lineup.
I have a difficult time believing the Braves were never at any point considering moving on from Marcell Ozuna. He was a mess on the field and even more problematic off of it. However, it has become evident that he’s one of the more beloved players in the clubhouse. His positivity and work ethic never wavered despite the outside noise, and that allowed Alex Anthopoulos and company to hang onto him much longer than most other teams would have.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire