Miami Marlins prospect Marcell Ozuna has the potential to be a middle of the order bat who could hit thirty homers per season in the majors. However, he struggles too much against left-handed pitching right now to make that seem possible. Ozuna strikes out a lot, like most power hitters, but his inability to hit left-handed pitching is really the reason Ozuna didn't see any time in the Southern League in 2012. If Marcell Ozuna is to reach his potential, or even come close to it, he's going to need to prove to the Miami organization next season that he can hit lefties.
Marcell Ozuna is not just a power hitter. He also plays a decent right field thanks to an amazing arm. Marcell Ozuna probably has a 70-grade arm. Other outfielders with that strong of an arm include Ichiro Suzuki and Nick Markakis. Ozuna's arm is the strongest I have ever witnessed in a Florida State League outfielder. Even when he makes mistakes on playing balls and getting good jumps, his arm can make up for it. This is what will prevent him from playing first base down the road, which would diminish a lot of his value.
|Ozuna , Season||PA||AVG||HR||wRC+||K%|
|2011 (Greensboro, Low-A)||552||.266||23||122||21.9%|
|2012 (Jupiter, High-A)||539||.266||24||127||
As you can see with this chart, Ozuna's jump from Low-A to High-A this past season did not affect his numbers that much. That's really good news because his numbers at Greensboro were not all that bad. However, that also shows that he failed to reduce his strikeouts this season. Overall, Ozuna's totals from the 2012 season show another year of dominance in his league. If you dig deeper, you find that to be far from the case.
From the start of the season to August 9th, Ozuna was hitting .167/.241/.333 against lefties. Thanks to the month of August in which Ozuna hit for a 1.094 OPS, Ozuna finished the season with a .218/.290.425 against lefties. That is not terrific but it is a monster improvement over his starts through the first week of August. It took a while but by the end of the season, Marcell Ozuna was hitting left-handed pitchers.
Ozuna's struggles with lefties this season could have been cause by hundreds of reasons. Maybe it was just a fluke and Ozuna just happened to be less productive against them. Maybe it was a mechanical issue that he worked out with a pitching coach later in the season. I do not know why he struggled against lefties, but I do know that if there is something behind those struggles, it will be exposed early next year.
In High-A, teams' pitching rosters are not as mature, experienced, or developed than those of Double-A. One major issue with which Ozuna could potentially struggle next season in Jacksonville is that there will be many more lefties with breaking balls and changeups. Ozuna has always struggled with off-speed pitches, like a lot of young Dominican sluggers, but he has never seen an array pitches like the ones he will see in Jacksonville next season.
Ozuna is going to strike out a lot next season, and he'll probably be a 20-plus percent strikeout rate guy for the remainder of his career. The difference between whether he can be successful swinging like that will be whether or not he is able to hit left-handed pitching. The improvements Ozuna made in the second half were extremely encouraging and he will need to carry that momentum into 2013. If Ozuna can learn to hit lefties and maintain his strikeouts, he could become a star in Miami.