5. Marcell Ozuna, OF
Drafted: N/A (International signing from the Dominican Republic)
Age: 22 Height: 6’2" Weight: 190 lbs.
Marcell Ozuna possesses some of the finest tools of any position prospect in baseball. He's an athletic player who can cover plenty of ground in the outfield, and create havoc on the base-paths. He demonstrates good instincts at basestealing, which has led to a very high success rate. Ozuna's arm registers as a plus-plus tool as well. He could improve the precision of his throws, but the velocity is outstanding.
These tools fail to account for Ozuna's strongest asset, and his claim to fame: power. Huge power. His swing is built to pull the ball, driving it out of the park frequently, and with authority. He struggles to identify pitches out of the strikezone, but when he swings at balls inside the zone, he punishes the baseball.
Ozuna first entered the radar of Marlins fans with his .313/.377/.486 debut in the Gulf Coast League, but he garnered far more attention the following year by hitting 21 home runs in 293 plate appearances for low Class-A Jamestown. This statistic came with a frightening caveat, however. He struck out in 32.1 percent of plate appearances. The Marlins moved Ozuna to Class-A in 2011, where his plate discipline showed improvement. He reduced his strikeout rate to 21.9 percent, and hit .266/.330/.482.
After his encouraging campaign for the Greensboro Grasshoppers, I ranked Ozuna as the second best prospect for the Miami Marlins. He fell on this year's list, but not because of any failure on his part. In fact, Ozuna's numbers this year were eerily similar to 2011. He hit .266/.328/.476 in 539 plate appearances, slugging 24 home runs. This occurred in the less hitter friendly parks of the Florida State League.
Ozuna's substantial problems with bat control and pitch recognition have yet to negatively effect his production, largely because lower-level minors pitchers lack the unnecessary fastball command and quality breaking pitches to exploit it. Thus, the transition to Double-A will be a huge test for Ozuna. If he cannot reduce his strikeout rate, then he will struggle to get on-base or hit home runs. He has survived so far on fantastic bat speed and raw power, but those skills by themselves are not sufficient against advanced pitching. He needs to apply his skills using discipline and intelligence.
I suspect Ozuna will take considerable time to adjust, so his path to the majors will be slower than Marisnick or Yelich. He will probably spend the duration of the 2013 season playing for Double-A Jacksonville. He could play for the Marlins at some point in 2014, but not as a starter. Ozuna should start for the Marlins by 2015, given that he dedicates himself to fixing the flaws in his game.