The quiet rise of Marcell Ozuna

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Through the first third of the 2014 season, one of the real surprises in the Marlins lineup has been the emergence of center fielder Marcell Ozuna, who has blown past preseason expectations to become one of the top run producers in the National League.

Entering the 2014 season, expectations for Marcell Ozuna were not very lofty.  In fact, he barely won the starting center fielder job over Jake Marisnick.

Through the first 57 games of the season, Ozuna has quietly (thanks to playing in the gigantic shadow of Giancarlo Stanton in the Marlins outfield) blown past those preseason projections and played like a legitimate all star.

In 70 games in 2013, Ozuna slashed .265/.303/.389 with 3 homers, 4 triples and 17 doubles.  He had earned a reputation in the minors as a power hitter, having hit 5 homers in 47 plate appearances in Double-A, but last season, the power simply wasn't there.

Ozuna's power outage led to some lukewarm preseason projections, as Michael Jong noted back in March:

The systems all tend to agree on Ozuna's batting average and OBP. The sub-.300 OBP is a result of his terrible expected walk rates; each system guessed that he will walk in less than six percent of his plate appearances, which seems reasonable given his minor league track record. The good news is that his walk rate has trended up while his strikeouts have trended down over the course of his minor league career, indicating that he has made proper adjustments and shown improvement before. If Menechino can get Ozuna to be more patient, perhaps that will add up to a better OBP going forward.

Ozuna's patience at the plate doesn't seem to have improved in 2014 if you look at the numbers. He has managed to improve his walk rate slightly, from 4.5% in 2013 to 7% in 2014, but he's also increased his strikeout rate, from 19.6% to 23.4%. His batting average has remained at .265.

The drastic change in Ozuna's numbers in 2014 is simply that he's turned 2013's doubles into 2014's home runs.  He's cranked 10 homers, 6th most among NL outfielders, in just 196 at-bats, compared to 3 homers in 275 at-bats in 2013.  He's also currently 10th in the NL among all players in RBIs in 2014, with 35.

Taking the average of his preseason projections, Ozuna was projected to produce slightly less power than Justin Ruggiano, hitting home runs at a rate of 14 homers per 600 plate appearances.

Needless to say, with 10 homers in just 214 plate appearances thus far, Ozuna has sent the baseball stats nerds scrambling back to their calculators and spreadsheets to adjust their projections.

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