Marcell Ozuna gave the Marlins three very special seasons (and two ok ones).
This offseason, of which there remain less than two weeks, we’ve been recapping each of the 630 players to appear with the Marlins through their first 28 seasons.
We’ve covered 617 of them, and saved the 13 best of them for these last 13 days before 2021’s Opening Day. Today’s featured player, Marcell Ozuna, totaled 13.9 bWAR in five seasons for the Marlins, but he’s not graded here based on overall bWAR (it wouldn’t matter in Ozuna’s case in particular, since that bWAR total ranks 13th in franchise history as well). Players are ranked on a per-plate appearance basis (or in pitchers cases, on a batters faced basis). Ozuna accumulated .0052 bWAR per plate appearance, just ahead of Devon White at .0049 and just behind tomorrow’s entrant in the series, who collected .0053.
13. Marcell Ozuna
Marcell Ozuna is a six-foot-one power-hitting outfielder from Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. In 2008, still aged 17, the Marlins signed him to his first professional deal. He went on to hit .279/.335/.416 in 63 games with the DSL Marlins, leading the team with six homers and 43 RBI. His .751 OPS ranked second on the squad to middle-infielder Luis Mercedes .773. Mercedes never appeared at any level again, meanwhile, Ozuna has gone on to great and wonderful things.
Ozuna graduated to the Marlins’ stateside rookie-level affiliate for the 2009 campaign, with the GCL Marlins. He topped the club with an .863 OPS, slashing .313/.377/.486 with a team-best five homers and 39 RBI. He was named to the GCL All Star team for his efforts. Still, he was not regarded at that time as a highly rated prospect, and would go on to be unranked until 2011.
In 2010, Ozuna spent the lion’s share of the season with the Marlins’ short-season-A affiliate, the Jamestown Jammers, and quite handily led the club (and the entire NYPL) with 21 homers. He slashed .267/.314/.556, but quite noticeably struggled with patience at the plate, striking out 94 times while drawing only 17 walks.
Ozuna continued his march up the minor league chain in 2011 with the Single-A Greensboro Grasshoppers, for whom he slashed a .266/.330/.482 line with 23 long-balls and 71 RBI. He also stole 17 bases in 19 attempts, although speed wouldn’t remain a big part of his game going forward. Ozuna was ranked as the number nine prospect in the organization by Baseball America, and helped lead that team to a 79-60 record (missing out on the postseason by a single game.
Ozuna moved up another level in 2012, to the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads, and posted a nearly identical slash line to his 2011 mark, at. 266/.328/.476. He hit an FSL-best 24 homers with a league-leading 95 RBI. By this time ranked as Miami’s number two prospect, Ozuna was named to the FSL All Star Team.
Ozuna played in 10 games at the Double-A level with the Jacksonville Suns to start out 2013, but he wasn’t long for that level, and debuted with the Marlins at the end of April. In his first look at the major league level, he hit .265/.303/.389 in 70 games, with only three homers and 32 RBI. He also walked only 13 times and whiffed 57 times. Although his walk to strikeout ratio would eventually improve, his raw whiff-figures never have.
On June 20, Ozuna posted a .505 WPA in a single plate appearance against the San Francisco Giants. With two out and runners on second and third, trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth, Ozuna stroked a two-run single, scoring Justin Ruggiano (#156) and Derek Dietrich (#71).
Ozuna’s effort in 2014 would result in a full-season’s figures over 153 games. He struck out four times for every walk (164-to-41), but was nevertheless an offensive stalwart and a defensive asset (with 10 DRS through the season). Ozuna ranked second on the club (to Giancarlo Stanton) with 23 home runs and 85 RBI, and slashed a .269/.317/.455 line.
On July 8, doubled in the fourth inning of a scoreless tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks, then later hit a two-run, come from behind two-out ninth inning homer for a 2-1 Marlins victory.
In 2015, Ozuna started off the season well enough. On May 1, doubled and scored in the second, doubled in the fourth, drew a walk in the fifth, singled in the seventh, and topped off his day with a walkoff double in the bottom of the ninth, scoring Stanton for a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
After a one-for-36 slump between late-June and early-July, the Marlins sent Ozuna down to the New Orleans Zephyrs at the Triple-A level to iron out his swing. Although enemies have been made for less, the gambit seemed to have worked. Ozuna closed the 2015 season hitting .278/.320/.469 through his final 44 games after rejoining Miami.
In 2016, Ozuna fully blossomed into a solid All-Star caliber outfielder, getting named to the squad for the mid-summer classic. He finally cut his whiff rate to less than 20 percent (with 115 K’s in 608 PA), stroking 23 long-balls with 76 RBI and a .266/.323/.452 slashline.
Ozuna’s 2017 campaign would be even more highly decorated for the slugger, who clubbed a career-best 37 homers and 124 RBI with a .312/.376/.548 line. He received his second consecutive invitation to the National League All Star Team, and won both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger Award for left field. His 5.1 bWAR remains the best total of his career, one he eventually parlayed into a pretty good contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ozuna collected an incredible 60 multiple hit games in his final season for the Marlins, including 19 instances of three or more. After that very nice season in Miami, Ozuna signed with the Cardinals through free agency for one year and $9 million. He followed that with another single-year deal in 2019 for $12.25 million, and spent last season with the Atlanta Braves on a one-year, $18 million contract. A few months ago, the Braves finally inked him to a multi-year deal, worth $65 million over the next four seasons.
Ozuna, who just turned 30, led the NL in 2020 with 18 home runs, 145 total bases, and 56 RBI. Maybe more impressively, he slashed career best figures, with a .338/.431/.636 line, drawing 38 walks with 60 whiffs. He’s now poised to be a thorn in the side for the Marlins for the foreseeable future, but he remains an integral part of Marlins history.