Marcell Ozuna‘s resurgence might have been the most surprising storyline of the Braves historic 2023 regular season campaign. He went from a tomato can on the cusp of being released in April to arguably the best DH in all of baseball by September.
It was one of the most remarkable turnarounds you’ll ever see in the sport. Off-the-field issues aside, Ozuna hadn’t been a productive player since he signed a lucrative four-year, $65 million contract with the Braves following the 2020 season. He only played 48 games in 2021 before he was placed on administrative leave for the rest of the season, and followed it up by hitting just .226 with a .687 OPS in 2022.
The Braves looked for potential trade partners, even dangling him in front of the Nationals for the abysmal contract of Patrick Corbin, but couldn’t find any suitors. An eventual designation for assignment appeared to be an inevitability, but the Braves were stubborn, and their patience eventually paid substantial dividends.
Ozuna followed a miserable April with some of the best offensive production of any player over the next five months. He finished the season with a career-high 40 homers to go along with 100 RBIs and a .905 OPS, the third-highest mark of his career. However, there are still some Braves fans that feel it might be best to sell high on The Big Bear.
To some degree, regression is likely in line. Replicating a 40 homer season is difficult even for the best of players. However, removing Marcell Ozuna from the middle of the lineup would be a massive blow to the Braves offense. His power bat is undeniable, and his batted ball profile was better than 95% of the league this season.
- 97th percentile xwOBA
- 91st percentile xBA
- 98th percentile xSLG
- 87th percentile Average Exit Velocity
- 98th percentile Barrel %
- 88th percentile Hard Hit %
It’s highly unlikely Alex Anthopoulos can find significantly greater value elsewhere.
Some will point to Ozuna’s lack of production in the postseason. To that I would say, he’s not the only one. As a team, the Braves did not live up to their billing as one of the best offenses in the history of the game. Discounting what Ozuna accomplished during the regular season because of a 13 at-bat sample size would be foolish.
Others will point to Ozuna’s inability to play defense. Perhaps Alex Anthopolous would like a DH that could fill in more often defensively to give some players some rest. That’s a fair point, but there are other ways to go about it that don’t include ridding of a player who is coming off a season where he just mashed 40 homers. Ozuna has also reportedly been working at first base, and if you remember, rest hasn’t exactly done the Braves many favors leading into October.
Marcell Ozuna is scheduled to make $16 million next season with a club option for 2025. Even with a bit of regression, his offense will be well worth the money. It’s also important to note that his clubhouse presence and work ethic are primary reasons as to why the Braves hung onto him as long as they did. The Big Bear isn’t going anywhere, and if he turns in another prolific campaign next season, he’ll be around in 2025 as well.
Photo: Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire