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2019 Projection Series: Marcell Ozuna

In 2018, Marcell Ozuna came to the Cardinals as the anointed savior of the lineup, the protector of protectors. (Severe hyperbole coming) I was basically called a heretic when I took the “under” on my projection that had Ozuna at .281/.340/.477/.817 line. I cautioned people at the time that this would still easily be the second best season of his career. By the end of April, I was already posting a poll in which over half of people thought he would have an OPS under .700 rather than an OPS over .800. That’s how bad he started. Ozuna eventually got going with a great stretch from May 21-June 17, but fell back into bad habits for a while after that again. Finally, he ended the year on a nice 40 games played run from August 6 to September 29.

That last stretch is what Cardinals fans thought they would get from him all year, I believe. That last stretch is what Cardinals brass hoped that they had traded for when they gave up 24 seasons of 4 cost-controlled assets for just 2 seasons of Marcell Ozuna - whose career stats were about equivalent to those of Stephen Piscotty and Randall Grichuk - who got traded for 2 guys apiece, and less years overall of players than they got for Ozuna, despite Piscotty and Grichuk having more years of service combined remaining than Ozuna. The Cardinals doubled down on this confounding (to me) predicament by batting Ozuna 4th in all but 3 of his starts. (For what it’s worth, Ozuna was 6 for 12 with 1 run, 1 homer, 4 RBI, and a strikeout batting 5th.) It was all very frustrating to me...and I really wish I wouldn’t have been right.

Ozuna has one more year with the Cardinals to change my perception of him and of that trade (and series of trades, really). My projections still like him to have his second best year of his career. Before we get to those, we can nearly guarantee that Ozuna will be the left fielder and bat clean up this season. In the past 5 years, league-wide, here are what left fielders and clean up hitters have done per 600 PA:

From 2014-2018, clean up hitters league-wide hit:

From 2014-2018, players playing left field in the field, league-wide, hit:

I have Ozuna getting 637 plate appearances, so slightly more than the 600 I used above, but here is what my projections have Ozuna doing in 2019:

637 PA .282/.338/.469/.807 with

78 runs, 23 doubles, 3 triples, 27 homers, 96 RBI

19.8% K rate, 7.4% BB rate, 2 SB, 2 CS

My projections believe Ozuna should be better than both the average left fielder in the last five years and the average clean up hitter in the last 5 years. For what it’s worth, last year, Ozuna WAS better than the average left fielder from the last five years; however, he was NOT better than the average cleanup hitter in the last five years in 2018.

What can be pointed out to show that things CAN be better than that?!?" See: The first half of 2016, all of 2017, the second half of 2018.

How/If things go wrong: See: 2013, 2014, 2015, the second half of 2016, the first half of 2018.


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