After starting the season 0-8 in two games, the St. Louis Cardinals outfielder has been red-hot over the last two weeks.
Since becoming a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, the expectations for Marcell Ozuna have been sky-high. The weight of being the franchise’s premium target in the off-season to boost not only the offense, but the morale of the fans is a heavy burden many players can’t or won’t carry. But no matter the expectations, the excitement generated by Ozuna’s name in the off-season was palatable. Whatever your expectations are or were, Ozuna should be living up to that.
Since starting the season 0-8 against two of the best pitchers in the National League, Ozuna flipped the page and is raking.
The St. Louis Cardinals outfielder is hitting .345 in the twelve games since his hit-less eight at-bats. In that span, Ozuna has collected a whopping nineteen hits in fifty-five at-bats, including two doubles, two home runs, and nine RBI. Ozuna’s nineteen hits are tied for third most in MLB and is second in the National League behind DJ LeMahieu. Did I also mention he is currently riding a twelve game hit-streak (knock on wood) going into today’s game?
Because of Ozuna’s modest twelve game hitting streak, his season average is now up to .302. If his start to the season is any indication of what his average will be this year, the it’s safe to say last year was no fluke. But there are two facets of Ozuna’s game that seem to be behind his batting average: home runs and RBI.
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Ozuna is on pace to hit 28 home runs this season, which by no means is terrible. But for all the hype surrounding Ozuna’s power and hitting 37 home runs the previous year, you may wonder whether Ozuna will reach that mark. It’s fair to wonder, but I think as the weather starts to heat up the ball will sail a little bit more.
Over the last week, there were a couple of balls Ozuna hit that sounded great off the bat, but didn’t carry in the cold in air in St. Louis. There is no doubt in my mind that some of those balls would have been home runs in warmer weather.
But my point is I wouldn’t worry about his power production. Ozuna’s slugging percentage is sitting right around .429 for the season (.491 during the hit-streak). While it’s still miles away from his .548 SLG% from a year ago, we are just a mere fourteen games into the season.
The RBI facet of his game is a little more unpredictable considering we are relying on other hitters in front of Ozuna. prior to the Reds series, the offense was not firing on all cylinders. Some of the hitters, namely Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter, were not doing their jobs of getting on base for Ozuna.
Fowler seems to be turning the corner. Carpenter? Not so much. If the top three in the lineup cannot get on base for Ozuna, then he will not even get close to RBI total he had in 2017. Again, this hardly speaks to Ozuna’s ability to drive in runs, but if the St. Louis Cardinals brought in Ozuna to be the focal point of the offense then Mike Matheny needs to make changes to exploit Ozuna’s strength’s.
What does that mean moving forward?
As much as I hate to admit it, maybe it’s time to abandon Carpenter in the three-hole altogether. Again, I think people need to understand why you would put a hitter like Carpenter in front of Ozuna. It’s all about getting someone on base in front of Ozuna, but that isn’t happening. You’re almost better off flipping Fowler and Carpenter, or going with Carpenter, Fowler and Tommy Pham as your top three. The other option is push Ozuna up to the three-hole and reorder from there.
However they choose to do it, the St. Louis Cardinals need to continue to find ways to exploit the strengths of their best hitters, like Ozuna.
Here’s hoping Marcell Ozuna can continue his hot start for the St. Louis Cardinals.