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2014 Marlins Season Review: Marcell Ozuna

Marcell Ozuna proved capable of performing at a high level by retrieving the power he did not show in 2013 on his way to a 20-plus home run season and another great year in center field for the Marlins.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins entered the 2014 season depending on the performance of a number of young players. One of those was Marcell Ozuna, who did not exactly instill confidence in the team's decision by playing poorly during Spring Training. Ozuna was outhit by fellow prospect Jake Marisnick, who was always considered the more highly-touted player of the two. The only thing holding back Marisnick was that he did not get 291 plate appearances in 2013, while Ozuna got an early chance at playing for the Fish last year thanks to Giancarlo Stanton's hamstring injury.

The Marlins chose Ozuna despite the poor performance at the plate in Spring Training. By the end of the 2014 season, we can safely say that Spring Training numbers do not easily predict the future, because Ozuna was nothing if not outstanding for the Marlins this past season.

Before the year began, the projection systems did not expect much from Ozuna's batting line, expecting about 14 homers in 600 plate appearances and bench-quality play.

Overall, the three systems average out to an expected .250/.290/.400 batting line with 1.2 WAR in 600 plate appearances. The Marlins are expected to be getting a bench-quality player in a full season's playing time, but at least those numbers may be better by virtue of improved defense. If Ozuna can be more of a net positive with his arm in center field, the Fish could have a player at least at the cusp of league average in 2014.

The season played out differently and better for Ozuna and the Fish, and it starts with the power output. Ozuna hit just three home runs, but he also hit 24 extra-base hits in 291 plate appearances. That translated to 8.8 percent of his plate appearances ending in an extra-base knock. That rate remained static this year, but what did not remain static was his fly ball distance. Ozuna pumped up his power game, and his fly balls as a whole traveled a good deal further this season than last.

This year, Ozuna has presumably made some adjustments. His fly ball rate does not appear to be any higher, but his 20 homers left his home run per fly ball rate looking more like a slugger. And his fly ball distances have reflected that; Ozuna has hit his fly balls an average of 31 feet further this year than last season, according to data provided from Baseball Heat Maps. Ozuna is doing everything else the same, with a similar distribution of batted balls and a similar number of popups this year compared to last season. He has just driven balls harder.

That power yielded a .186 ISO that was significantly better than last year's .124 mark. The 23 home runs was the most from a non-Giancarlo Stanton player since 2011, when Logan Morrison hit that many homers. The Fish have not seen that kind of power from someone other than Stanton for some time, and it was a huge benefit to them this year.

The rest of Ozuna's game was fairly predictable. He still was unaware of what to swing at, though he swung at fewer pitches overall this season (47 percent, 34 percent out of the strike zone). He also made less contact than last year, and that led to an unsurprising 27 percent strikeout rate. Ozuna struck out a good deal at each level in the minors, so such a high rate was not surprising. The Marlins would probably prefer a better performance next season, and with hitting coach Frank Menechino expecting more patience, perhaps Ozuna will wean off some of his free-swinging ways.

Photo by Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports

If it were just about power, Ozuna's batting line of .269/.317/.455 (.338 wOBA) would be good, but not great. It is a bit worse than the line Christian Yelich put up this season. But Ozuna had something else up his sleeve in 2014: his cannon right arm.

Ozuna threw out 10 runners from the outfield this past season, which is actually worse than his performance from last year, when he threw out eight in just under half of the playing time. But runners began recognizing Ozuna's arm and decided to hold off of running against him, and that deterrence is what garnered Ozuna runs on his arm. By UZR's estimations, Ozuna saved nearly eight runs defensively with his arm, while DRS suggests six runs were saved.

There was variation as to how good he was in other aspects of his defense. FRAA rated him very poorly, at almost a win below average as a whole, while DRS rated him as one of the top center fielders in the game, with a win saved compared to average in total. The eyes would put Ozuna as at least a good ranging outfielder with a great arm in center field, and that would be enough to make him an above-average and even close to elite defender at the position. Whatever his contribution, it was likely very positive for the Marlins.

The Fish got good offense and defender from a 23-year-old center fielder who is still under team control for a long period of time. They were so confident in Ozuna's abilities that they traded Marisnick as part of the Jarred Cosart deal, leaving Ozuna as the sole heir to center field. Given his 2014 performance, the position appears to be in good hands.

Grade: B+