Last year, St. Louis Cardinals’ Marcell Ozuna was almost never moved from the cleanup spot. In 2019, that can’t be allowed to happen.
Coming into the 2018 season, the St. Louis Cardinals thought they had a piece that would fix their middle of the order woes. That piece came in the form of Marcell Ozuna who they acquired from the Miami Marlins.
It has been written about many times the disappointment that happened next. Coming off a 2017 campaign where he batted .312/.376/.548 with 37 homers, Ozuna hit just .280/.325/.433 with 23 homers. Those numbers don’t say everything though as his season numbers were saved by a couple of hot months that brought up his overall averages.
While overall those numbers aren’t horrible and certainly helped the Cardinals offense, it is not what the Cardinals were expecting from Ozuna and definitely did not fit the expectations around where he was batting in the lineup.
Marcell Ozuna appeared in just 13 plate appearances last year not in the cleanup spot of the lineup. For reference, he has 615 plate appearances in that spot.
So looking at Ozuna’s production from the cleanup spot compared to the rest of the National League, the Cardinals ranked 10th when it comes to OPS. Yes OPS isn’t everything, but being in the bottom third of the league is never good. For a team that expects to compete, being 10th out of 15 in one of the bigger offensive categories at a spot in your lineup that is expected to produce big numbers is not going to cut it.
At times, Ozuna was exactly what the Cardinals needed in that spot. The problem was, there were more parts of the season that Ozuna was exactly the opposite of what the team needed at that spot in the lineup and he was almost never moved from the cleanup spot.
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That is all I am advocating for in the coming year. Last year’s anchor to the cleanup spot may have been partly because of Matheny, may have been Shildt or upper management. Doesn’t matter. The team cannot allow a sub-par Ozuna to ruin the offense at the cleanup spot. I am not saying after one bad game or week to move him out of the cleanup spot, but if there is a prolonged lack of production from him like last year, he needs to be moved.
Ozuna’s throwing shoulder, a likely cause of the offensive backslide in 2018, looks better this Spring after offseason surgery. While his Spring numbers don’t look great, we won’t know for sure how he is going to be until the start of the regular season.
Hopefully, this isn’t a question we have to worry about in 2019. In a perfect world, Ozuna is completely healthy and puts up big numbers in a contract year. He likely won’t resign here but I hope he gives this team one tremendous year before he hits free agency.