After being promoted last season, Miami Marlins' outfilder Marcell Ozuna felt confident he would be able to perform well enough to remain at the major league level. Pitchers adjusted to Ozuna, and an offensive slump was followed by a thumb injury that ended his season.
Ozuna said he was completely healthy at the start of spring camp, which makes his lack of success at the plate even more alarming to Miami's front office. With Ozuna not a lock to begin the year as the Marlins' starting center fielder, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported in his Sunday Buzz Column that Miami has several other plans should the inconsistencies become enough to have him start the year in Triple-A.
One Marlins official said if center fielder Marcell Ozuna continues to struggle offensively and doesn’t make the team out of spring training, one good possibility is moving Christian Yelich to center and haveBrian Bogusevic and Reed Johnson platoon in left. The Marlins also could opt for defensively-gifted Jake Marisnick if he is absolutely exceptional offensively all spring, which they aren’t necessarily expecting. But they’re still hopeful Ozuna will turn it around.
In 2013, Ozuna batted .265 with a .303 on-base percentage. He was a nice addition to a lineup that consistently had trouble scoring runs, and while Jake Marisnick is thought to be the center fielder of the future, Ozuna last season sought to prove that he can be a productive major league player.
While there is still time for Ozuna to turn things around, the fact that the Marlins have an alternative plan is reassuring. Adding outfield depth was not on Miami's to-do list over the course of the offseason, and with Marisnick, Yelich, Stanton, and Ozuna all outfield options, rightfully so.
What plagued Ozuna most last year was the inability to adjust to the league's pitchers. He was one of baseball's more productive rookies upon being called up, and while he couldn't adjust to the opposing pitchers, pitchers adjusted to him before he was placed on the disabled list.
The possibility of Marisnick filling a possible center field vacancy is questionable. The Marlins' 2013 lineup was one of the least productive in baseball, and Marisnick's bat has served as a barrier between him remaining in the minor leagues or being promoted.
In 40 games with Miami last season, Marisnick batted a mere .183, and struck out in nearly a quarter of his at-bats (22.9%). Adding a bat that lacks both experience and consistency is counterproductive considering Miami's offseason moves are thought to have, at the very least, improved the offense when compared to last year's fielded team.
Should Ozuna not bounce back and make the team, Bogusevic and Johnson platooning in left may work out for the best. Johnson, who spent last season with Atlanta and signed a minor league contract with Miami, is a career .291 hitter against left-handed pitchers, and Bogusevic has the same career average against righties.
Utilizing every player on the roster will likely assist the offense, wiht Garrett Jones probably splitting time at first base because of his career issues against left-handed pitching.
If Ozuna opens the year in the minors, the fact that Miami has a defined plan moving forward is encouraging, and the plan, if necessary, likely won't hurt the offensive production.