The St. Louis Cardinals have acquired a big bat that had an incredible 2017 season. However, many wonder if it is repeatable.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been waiting for a great player to fit into the lineup for some time and they may have finally gotten their man in Marcell Ozuna. It’s great when a plan comes together as this was something I covered on Monday. Today, I am here to explain to you why Ozuna’s great 2017 season is repeatable.
Career Prior to 2017
In 2013, Ozuna debuted with the Miami Marlins slashing .265/.303/.389 with 24 extra-base hits over the course of 70 games. The power was a little lackluster as Ozuna only compiled three homers over those 70 games. However, the overall numbers weren’t too bad for a rookie who was just 23 years old.
Ozuna followed things up with a better sophomore showing as he showed off his power to the tune of 23 homers. He raised his slugging percentage by 67 points and increased his wRC+ by 24 points. Things were looking up for Ozuna in his Sophomore season.
However, the 2015 Season came and it was a big regression for the Dominican born outfielder. In the first three months of the season, Ozuna struggled to continue his success from his 2014 season. He slashed .241/.301/.337 with just four homers over that time and a paltry wRC+ of 78, meaning he was 22% below average.
It was so bad that the Miami Marlins sent him down to AAA. This is absolutely cause for concern for St. Louis Cardinals’ fans. However, Ozuna came back up to the majors after a month in AAA and improved things posting a 118 wRC+ with six homers over the final 44 games.
Ozuna continued this through the first half of the 2016 season as he posted a 138 wRC+ with 34 extra-base hits (18 homers). It appeared as though he was finally about to take off and cement himself as a star in the league. However, Ozuna’s production fell off a cliff in the second half. He posted a 62 wRC+ with just six homers over that period. That is not good.
Ozuna’s Monster 2017 Season and What’s Changed
It was obvious here that something had to change for Ozuna. He had to find what he had in the first half of the season. So, what does a player who’s struggling do? They make an adjustment. That’s exactly what Ozuna did and it led to a career year as he slashed .312/.376/.548 with a 142 wRC+ with a total of 69 extra base-hits (37 Homers and 30 Doubles).
I want to show you what adjustment Ozuna made and how it correlated with his numbers. So, what I will do is share with you some gifs of Ozuna’s stance and swing over the past two seasons to show you what Ozuna has changed.
Here we have Ozuna hitting a home run off of Max Scherzer in 2016. What I want you to pay attention to is the front leg of Ozuna. If you notice it is almost to the back of the batter’s box. From what it looks like it seems as if Ozuna is relying on a lot of his upper body strength to drive the ball. He’s able to use his bat speed and hips to get in front of a Max Scherzer fastball and get the ball out.
Here is Ozuna’s swing from this past season. This is Ozuna facing our own Carlos Martinez. One can appreciate that we won’t see this happen again for at least the next two years.
The difference here is that Ozuna is much more upright and balanced in his stance. He has his back foot slightly elevated in the back and much closer to his body than his stance in 2016. You’ll notice that he also holds the bat more upright, giving him the ability to get to the ball quicker as opposed to holding it on his shoulder.
The result of this stance change is allowing Ozuna to see the ball and react to it better than he has at any point in his career. Not only did this result in him to post better contact numbers, but it also helped him up his ability to get on base via the walk. He walked 21 more times in 2017 than he did in 2016, a 2.3% increase in his walk rate.
Here is a gif of him watching a strike.
I think this gif of Ozuna striking out looking against Mike Foltynewicz is the perfect example of his better batter’s eye. Ozuna tracks the ball all the way and knows it isn’t a pitch he can do anything with. Wisely he watches and expects it to be a ball, but the umpire calls him out on a borderline call.
In the Numbers
Just so you don’t think I am cherry picking the videos to just come up with something. I also wanted to show that his improved stance shows in areas that your average stat sheet won’t pick up.
As you can see here, Ozuna created more value against every single pitch in 2017. He posted a career-high against every pitch including the slider which is a pitch that has given him fits throughout his career. This is what the stance has done for him, he has the ability to see that pitch better now and act on it as he sees fit like he did on that Carlos Martinez slider earlier.
This is an absolutely wonderful get for the St. Louis Cardinals. Considering what they gave up, I think the Cardinals absolutely got what they wanted. Some of it does sting, but I think we are going to enjoy watching Ozuna play. It is a pure baseball move that will work out for both sides.
What do you think? Is this is a good addition for the St. Louis Cardinals? What’s coming up next? Let us know in the comments section! We would love to hear from you!