Marcell Ozuna Idelfonso
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 220 lb.
Marcell Ozuna made his major league debut in 2013.
He signed with the Florida Marlins in February 2008; the scout was Sandy Nin. He hit .279/.335/.416 with 43 RBI in 63 games that summer for the DSL Marlins. He just missed the Dominican Summer League top 10 in home runs (6, one shy of the top 10) and RBI. In 2009, he came stateside and batted .313/.377/.486 with 22 doubles and 39 RBI in 55 contests for the GCL Marlins. He led the Gulf Coast League in doubles (5 more than anyone else), was tied for 5th in runs (32), tied for 9th in home runs, was 5th in average, was 5th in slugging and was second in RBI (five shy of leader Layton Hiller).
Ozuna began 2010 with the Greensboro Grasshoppers and started slowly (4 for 25, HR, 2 BB, 10 K) then was sidelined with a left forearm injury for a couple months. When he returned, it was with the Jamestown Jammers, for whom he produced at a .267/.314/.556 clip with 21 homers, 53 runs and 60 RBI in 68 games, though he still struck out in 94 of 270 AB. He was among the New York-Penn League leaders in runs (tied for second with Nick Longmire), home runs (1st, 7 ahead of Cory Vaughn), RBI (first, four ahead of Vaughn) strikeouts (first), total bases (150, 1st, 3 ahead of Vaughn) and slugging (2nd, .001 behind Vaughn). Baseball America rated him as the league's fourth-best prospect, behind Carlos Perez, Jake Thompson and Vaughn. Despite his injuries, he still led the Marlins minor leaguers in dingers, one ahead of Giancarlo Stanton.
With Greensboro for a full season in 2011, Ozuna remained productive. He hit .266/.330/.482 with 23 home runs, 28 doubles and 87 runs. He stole 17 bases in 19 times and cut his strikeout rate (he fanned 121 times in 496 AB) while walking more (46). After a .218 first half, he improved to .310 in the second half. He had 14 assists in right field but also ten errors. He was second in the South Atlantic League in runs (behind Trayce Thompson) and fourth in homers. He tied Kevin Mattison for the most runs by a Marlins farmhand and was third in homers (behind Kyle Jensen and Mark Canha). Baseball America listed him as the 7th-best prospect in the SAL, between Jesse Biddle and Brandon Jacobs.
Ozuna produced at a .266/.328/.476 rate with 27 doubles, 24 home runs, 89 runs and 95 RBI for the Jupiter Hammerheads. He led the Florida State League in runs (6 over Ramon Flores), home runs (one ahead of Vaughn), RBI (5 more than Alex Dickerson) and total bases (233) and was 4th in slugging (between Ryan Schimpf and Kyle Roller), 7th in hits (130), tied for 9th in doubles and 10th in OPS. He won a Rawlings Minor Gold Glove, fielding .988 with nine assists in right field. He was also chosen as the FSL All-Star right fielder, but lost MVP honors to Dickerson. Baseball America put him down as the #15 prospect in the loop, trailing Christian Yelich, Oswaldo Arcia, Jake Marisnick and Avisail Garcia among outfielders. He started 2013 well with Jupiter (4 for 15, 2B) and the Jacksonville Suns (.333/.383/.810, 5 HR, 15 RBI in 10 G).
He made his debut in the majors with the Miami Marlins on April 30, 2013. He had been called up to take the place of RF Stanton, who had been placed on the disabled list because of a hamstring injury. Facing the New York Mets, Ozuna went 1 for 3 with a strikeout, his first major league hit being a single off Jeremy Hefner in the 5th inning. He had at least one hit in each of his next four games, and in the fifth game hit his first career home run, a solo shot off Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies on May 4th. On May 5th, he went 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles in a 14-2 thrashing of those same Phillies. He continued to start for the Marlins as Stanton's injury kept him out longer than expected. On June 8th, he displayed his great throwing arm in a marathon game against the New York Mets; in the 12th inning, he caught a fly ball off the bat of Marlon Byrd near the foul line in right field at Citi Field, then relayed on a single bounce to catcher Rob Brantly to retire Daniel Murphy and prolong the game, which the Marlins eventually won in 20 innings. He went 3 for 8 that day, to improve his batting average to .328. However, he began to slump after his fast start, and had fallen to .265/.303/.389 after 70 games when the Marlins decided to sent him back to the minors for more seasoning on July 22nd, calling up top prospect Christian Yelich in his place. He did well in 14 games in the minors (4 for 15 for Jupiter, .333/.383/.810 with 5 homers and 15 RBI for Jacksonville) before a thumb injury ended his season.
Ozuna was back in the Marlins' starting line-up at the start of the 2014 season. On Opening Day, on March 31st, he collected 3 hits including a homer against the Colorado Rockies as part of a 10-1 win by Miami. On June 20th, he won a game with his arm and not his bat, as he made two excellent throws from left field to nail down two New York Mets baserunners at home plate in a 3-2 win: in the 8th, he nailed David Wright, and in the 9th, he gunned down Kirk Nieuwenhuis to end the game. Both plays were upheld after instant replay was used, and the second throw was so improbable that when Chris Young lifted the ball towards left, the Marlins' television announcers stated "that will tie the game", anticipating a routine sacrifice fly. He hit .269 in 153 games that season, with 26 doubles, 23 homers and 85 RBIs. He returned as the starting center fielder in 2015, but he struggled during the first half, leading to his being sent down to the minor leagues in early July, when he was batting .249 in 79 games with only 4 homers. He spent a month with the New Orleans Zephyrs, hitting .333 with 5 homers in 33 games, and returned to Miami where he did much better than in the first half. He hit .278 after his return and improved his slugging percentage by over 130 points, from .337 to .469, to finish the year at .259 with 27 doubles and 10 homers in 123 games.
Ozuna continued to improve significantly over the next two seasons, making the All-Star team in both 2016 and 2017. In 2016, he hit .266 with 23 homers and 76 RBIs and 75 runs. He then had a veritable break-out season in 2017, hitting .312 with 37 homers and 134 RBIs. He won both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger Award as the Marlins arguably fielded the best outfield in the majors with Ozuna in left, Christian Yelich in center and Giancarlo Stanton, the NL MVP, in right. It should have provided a excellent bais for the Marlins to build for the future, and it seemed at first to be the plans of the new ownership group that took over the team after the season, led by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter but alas, they instead argued that the team was losing too much money and needed to cut payroll and immediately launched a fire sale. Ozuna was among the valuable assets being traded mainly for financial relief, heading to the St. Louis Cardinals on December 13th in return for a package of prospects headed by P Sandy Alcantara and OF Magneuris Sierra.
Ozuna spent two seasons as the starting left fielder for the Cardinals in 2018 and 2019. He played 148 and 130 games, hitting .280 the first season, but a disappointing .240 the second; however, in terms of OPS+ there was hardly a difference between the two years: he was at 106 in 2018, and 107 in 2019. The power was there, with 23 and 29 homers, and he also drove in 88 and 89 runs. The Cardinals returned to the postseason after a four-year absence in 2019 and he was excellent in his team's win against the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series, when he hit .429 with 3 doubles, 2 homers, 6 runs and 5 RBIs. Like most of his teammates, he was stymied by the pitching of the Washington Nationals as the Cardinals were swept in the NLCS, going 3 for 16 with no run scored or RBI. He became a free agent after the season and on January 21, 2020 signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves for $18 million. The Braves were looking for him to replace some of the production lost by the departure of free agent Josh Donaldson. who had turned a one-year deal in 2019 into a great season.
The Braves' decision to sign Ozuna turned out to be an inspired one, as he stepped into the newly-created designated hitter role, and freed from defensive responsibilities, he began to hit up a storm. He started well enough, with two homers in his first three games for the Braves, but only hit one more through August 10th, at which point he was hitting .262 with 3 homers and 8 RBIs. But he started off on a tear that day, and hit 5 more long balls the rest of August while driving in 15 runs. This came at an important time for the Braves, as Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies both were absent with injuries for most of that stretch. He then cranked it up another notch on September 1st when he became the first National Leaguer to have a three-homer game at Fenway Park, doing so in a 10-3 win over the struggling Boston Red Sox. The second homer was also the 1,000th hit of his career, and he collected 6 RBIs on the day as his batting average reached .295. He only held the Fenway Park distinction for one day as on September 2nd, his teammate Adam Duvall had a three-homer game of his own in a 7-5 win over the Sox. It was the first time in baseball history that teammates had had three-homer games in consecutive games, although Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of the 1930 New York Yankees had done so on consecutive days, but with a doubleheader involved. In that game, Ozuna hit another homer in the 7th, that broke a 5-5 tie, giving him four for the three-game series, the same number as Duvall. The Braves swept all three games. He finished the year at .338 while playing all 60 of his team's games, leading the National League with 267 plate appearances, 18 homers, 56 RBIs and 145 total bases. He was the first recipient in the circuit's history of the Silver Slugger Award for a DH (before that, the 9th award had been given to the league's best-hitting pitcher) and was also the first player from the National League to win the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award, whose recipients were by necessity all from the junior circuit before that. In the postseason, he was just 1 for 9 in the low-scoring Wild Card Series against the Cincinnati Reds, but his lone hit was a key one, a two-runner homer off Raisel Iglesias in the 8th inning of Game 2 in a game that was just 1-0 at the time. In the Division Series, he went 4 for 13 with 3 runs in a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins, and he then went 8 for 29 with 2 doubles and 2 homers, scoring 4 runs and driving in 6 as the Braves gave the Los Angeles Dodgers a run for their money in the NLCS, going down in seven games.
Following the 2020 season, Ozuna became a free agent, but although other teams courted him, he decided to return to the Braves, agreeing on February 5, 2021 to a four-year deal worth $64 million, with an option for an additional season. He got off to a slow start however, hitting just .202 in April, with limited power. He was just at .213 with 7 homers and 26 RBIs after 48 games in late May when he was placed on the injured list with two injured fingers. Shortly thereafter, on May 29th, he was arrested on domestic violence charges in the northern Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs, GA. He was charged with "aggravated assault strangulation and misdemeanor battery-family violence", the first charge being considered a felony in Georgia, as he was in the middle of assaulting his spouse when police intervened. Major League Baseball immediately opened an investigation, and he was likely to face a long suspension, in addition to whatever criminal penalties would be levied. There had been previous instances of violence between the two spouses, but a year earlier it was his wife Genesis who had been arrested for hitting him in the face with an object. He did not play again that season and thus missed the Braves' run to a World Series title. After the season, the Commissioner handed him an additional 20-game suspension, in addition to the time already missed, to be served at the start of the 2022 season. He never really got going in 2022 as well, as in 124 games, he batted .226 with 23 homers and 56 RBIs as a full-time DH. His OPS+ was just 89 on a team that won 101 games. He was 0 for 8 in the Division Series which the Braves lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Ozuna got off to another slow start in 2023 and hit a measly .085 in April. Questions were being raised about whether he still had his place in the big leagues, especially with the Braves posting the best record in the National League by early May, giving them little reason to carry such an albatross in the DH spot. He was still displaying some occasional power, however: for example, on May 13th, after being benched for a number of games, he accounted for both of his team's runs with a two-run shot off Jose Berrios of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2nd inning of a 5-2 loss, his 7th homer of the season, but such fireworks were still too rare to justify extensive playing time. Some commentators were calling this a "resurgence", but he had only managed to raise his average to .169 by hitting .333 in his first 8 games in May. However, he continued to improve after that, bringing his average to .213 by the end of May, and .247 in June. He continued to hit for power as well, and on August 21st hit his 25th and 26th homers of the season. That gave the Braves five different hitters with 25 or more homers, a first in franchise history.
- 2-time NL All-Star (2016 & 2017)
- NL Gold Glove Winner (2017/LF)
- 2-time NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2017/OF & 2020/DH)
- NL Total Bases Leader (2020)
- NL Home Runs Leader (2020)
- NL Runs Batted In Leader (2020)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 7 (2014, 2016-2019, 2022 & 2023)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2017 & 2023)
- 40-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2023)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 2 (2017 & 2023)
- Mark Bowman: "Ozuna signs 4-year deal to return to Braves", mlb.com, February 5, 2021. 
- Mark Bowman: "Ozuna's resurgence a bright spot amid challenging stretch", mlb.com, May 13, 2023. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Marlins' Marcell Ozuna thrives while coping with loss of best friend Jose Fernandez", USA Today Sports, May 24, 2017. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Marcell Ozuna's big move: From Marlins anonymity to Cardinals catalyst", USA Today Sports, March 23, 2018. 
- Mike Petriello: "Hard-hitting Ozuna should be highly sought after in trade: Improved OPS by 150 points following return from Minor Leagues", mlb.com, November 29, 2015. 
- Ryan Young: "Braves star Marcell Ozuna arrested on domestic violence charges", Yahoo! Sports, May 29, 2021.