St. Louis Cardinals: The case against Marcell Ozuna

PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 22: Marcell Ozuna
PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 22: Marcell Ozuna /

The St. Louis Cardinals have been linked to many of the Marlins’ outfielders including Marcell Ozuna but they should caution the Ozuna interest.

Many St. Louis Cardinals fans are clamoring about the potential trade(s) with the Miami Marlins. Giancarlo Stanton is option #1 – rightfully so, at least in my opinion. His 59 homers, 1.007 OPS, and 156 wRC+ in 2017 are plenty of reasons to want to see him with the Birds on the Bat across his chest in 2018 and beyond.

The Cardinals’ new deal with Fox Sports Midwest offers the financial flexibility to take on some, or maybe all, of his contract. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say the Cardinals and Marlins can’t make a deal happen for Stanton. Or, maybe the Marlins want to keep him to build around. Many people think Marcell Ozuna makes sense.

Let’s make a case against Marcell Ozuna. 

First, let me point out why many people are high on him. In 2017, he hit .312 with 37 home runs and 124 RBI. Who wouldn’t want those kinds of numbers in the middle of their lineup?!

He also set career highs with a .376 OBP and a .548 slugging percentage for a career high .924 OPS. To top it all off, he was just announced as a gold glove winner for the National League in left field (ok, now maybe I’m starting to convince myself he is a good option…).

But, let’s dive into his numbers a little more.

He is a career .277 hitter. He hit 35 points above his career average last year. That’s a big jump. His career BABIP (batting average of balls in play) is .327. Last season, it was .355. That’s almost 30 points above his career average.

This suggests he got quite a bit luckier last year when putting balls in play. These numbers almost always increase or decrease (as in this case) to career norms.

23.4% of his fly balls turned into home runs last season. His career percentage is 15.1%. Again, that’s a pretty big jump and suggests some luck. I would expect both numbers to regress closer to his career average.

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And, it’s not like he changed his approach to pull more baseballs or hit more balls in the air, which we could then use to account for more home runs. According to Fangraphs, he pulled 38.6% of balls put in play last season. His career average is exactly that. He hit 36.3% of balls to center. For his career, it’s 36.2%. He hit 25.1% of balls to right last season. His career average is 25.2%. They are crazily right on track with career numbers.

Furthermore, 33.5% of his balls in play were fly balls. His career average is 33.7%. And, he actually hit 0.03% more ground balls last season. So, he didn’t pull more balls and he didn’t hit more balls in the air. But, 8.3% more fly balls left the yard… once again, this suggests some regression in the future.

Some additional numbers – he swung at 73.1% of pitches inside the strike zone. His career average is 68.1%. He swung at significantly more strikes last season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, he made contact with 83.9% of those strikes he swung at which is actually below his career average of 85.3%. So, he swung at more strikes but made less contact. Hmm…

Depth Charts and Steamer project him at a .288 average, 29-31 home runs, and 98-104 RBI. Are those quality numbers? Absolutely!

Would many St. Louis Cardinals fans like to see Ozuna in a Cards uniform next season? Probably. Especially when you couple that with gold glove caliber left field defense.

However, I think his asking price or the prospects wanted in return is going to be relative to the MVP-type numbers he put up last season and not the solid career numbers he has put up thus far; his value has never been higher and the Marlins front office will take full advantage of that. 

Next: Bullpen possibilities

Let’s hope the St. Louis Cardinals simply steal Stanton and the Ozuna topic falls off the table. In the meantime, thanks for reading.