St. Louis Cardinals: Putting together the 2018 lineup
Put your money where your mouth is: Ozuna is the three-hole
The resounding silver medal of the off-season, Marcell Ozuna comes to the St. Louis Cardinals as their best hitter, even if he regresses towards his .277 career average. The Cardinals have been looking for a hitter to feature in the middle of their lineup since the departure of Albert Pujols, and many were hopeful Giancarlo Stanton would be that piece.
Well, he wasn’t, so the Cardinals went and got the next best thing this off-season in Ozuna. While he isn’t the slugging monolith Stanton is, he is still worthy of being featured as the number three hitter. The Cardinals haven’t had a player with at least 100 RBI’s in a season since Matt Holliday in 2012. Hopefully Ozuna will be the one to break that in the three-hole with solid hitters ahead of him.
2017: .312/.376/.548, 37 home runs, 124 RBI’s in 679 PA’s
2017 as #3 hitter: .362/.413/.569, 3 home runs, 9 RBI’s in 63 PA’s
Career as #3 hitter: .345/.396/.571, 5 home runs, 12 RBI’s in 91 PA’s
Some might argue Paul DeJong, who excelled hitting third last season, should be in this spot. However, Ozuna is simple a better hitter overall, and we are still unsure DeJong won’t go through a regression similar to Aledmys Diaz next season. In addition, Ozuna is the “big bat” acquisition the Cardinals have been looking for years. He will be treated like it unless he doesn’t produce.
The St. Louis Cardinals traded for Ozuna with the premise that he would be the best hitter on the team and gave away enough elite prospects for him to make that impression. He has demonstrated himself to be a capable hitter in 2017, but whether that remarkable season is the breakout of Ozuna or just a flash in a frying pan will have a huge impact on the Cardinals. If Ozuna performs here, this Cardinals offense can flourish.