St. Louis Cardinals: Marcell Ozuna needed to be called out

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 10: Marcell Ozuna #23 of the St. Louis Cardinals walks off the field in the seventh inning during a game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on August 10, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 10: Marcell Ozuna #23 of the St. Louis Cardinals walks off the field in the seventh inning during a game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on August 10, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak called out the St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Marcell Ozuna in Tuesday’s season wrap-up news conference.  A message needed to be sent.  Was it received?

During the St. Louis Cardinals season wrap news conference on Tuesday, John Mozeliak gave a frank assessment of expectations for certain players during the off-season.  Names included Carlos Martinez, Kolten Wong, Dexter Fowler, Tyler O’Neil, Harrison Bader, and Alex Reyes.

However, Mozeliak gave more time discussing the organization’s off-season expectations for Marcell Ozuna than any other Cardinal player.  In fact, it seemed to be a ‘calling out’ of the St. Louis Cardinals left fielder.  Clearly, the Cardinals felt a blunt message needed to be sent.

The disappointment in Ozuna’s year could be felt by anyone who heard or read Mozeliak’s comments during the press conference.  The Cardinal’s President of Baseball Operations frankly spelled out the organization’s frustrations with Ozuna’s injuries that impacted his production during the 2018 season.

High Expectations

Marcell Ozuna’s 2017 season was extraordinary. His slash line of .312/.376/.548 with 37 HR and 124 RBI was the best of his career.  He also earned a gold glove and silver slugger award, along with his second All-Star appearance.

After the failed courtship of the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, the St. Louis Cardinals turned their attention to Ozuna.  Needing a power bat in the lineup, Ozuna seemed to fill a void in the Cardinal lineup that Matt Holiday occupied for many years.

Additionally, as opposed to Stanton, Ozuna came with a very affordable price tag for the cost-conscious Cardinals. The 27-year-old would not be a free agent until 2020 and would play for the Cardinals at a reasonable $9 million during 2018.

The right-handed Ozuna’s offensive production, defensive ability, youth, and affordability was the reason the Cardinals sent four prospects that included pitcher Sandy Alcantara.

So far, so good, but then…

Regression from the mean

Although John Mozeliak said the Cardinals expected some drop off from 2017 (Mo speak ‘regression from the mean’), the ‘drop off’ was more than anticipated.  Showing up to spring training with a sore shoulder wasn’t anticipated either, and it became a “liability” as Mozeliak described it. The ailing shoulder led to a reduction in power and an inability to throw effectively from left field.

2018 saw Ozuna’s offensive numbers drop significantly from his stand out year of 2017.  His slash line fell to .280/.325/.433 with 23 HR and 88 RBI.  Defensively, his RF/9 fell from 2.15 in 2017 to 1.89 to 2018.  One of the most painful things to watch in 2018 was Ozuna’s ‘snowflake’ throws from left field. Also, at times, it seemed the effort was lacking in his defense when it came to running down balls in the outfield.

In late August, Ozuna received cortisone treatment for his shoulder.  After at stint on the 10-day DL, he returned to the lineup and showed more power in his at bats.  At first his throws from left field did show better strength after coming off the DL, but eventually the shoulder weakened again.

Calling out Marcell

As John Mozeliak said during Tuesday’s new conference, “we can show you where the water is, but we can’t make you drink.”  The St. Louis Cardinals will set up Ozuna with options on getting his shoulder treated during this off-season. However, as Mozeliak said, it will be up to him to show up and get it done.

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There have been consistent rumors all season about Marcell Ozuna’s work ethic or lack of it.  The  news conference on Tuesday seemed to confirm these rumors with Mozeliak’s frank tone about Qzuna going forward.

To be fair, Ozuna has said next year would be different.  According to Jenifer Langosch, the Cardinal left fielder said the day after the season ended, “I’m going to get right. Big Year. You watch. Big year for me next year.”  Of course, Ozuna is set to be a free agent after 2019, and that could be the motivating factor going into spring training as opposed to Mozeliak’s challenge.

Either way, that’s good news for Cardinals fans  It’s also what John Mozeliak, Mike Shildt, and the front office wants to hear from Marcell Ozuna. They expect him to accept responsibility for his off-season health/conditioning program.


What is certain, the St. Louis Cardinals will need a healthy Marcell Ozuna going into the 2019 season. By all accounts, Ozuna will still be a Cardinal when spring training arrives and be penciled in as the Cardinals’ everyday left fielder.

Even if the Cardinals sign another power bat, Ozuna’s performance will be important if the team expects to make the 2019 postseason.  His power numbers must improve and his defense needs to be closer to the pre-2018 Ozuna.

The message has been sent.  Was it received?  We’ll find out when spring training opens in February.

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Was John Mozeliak right in calling out Marcell Ozuna?  Let’s us know.  Thanks for reading and …GO CARDS.