After finishing April with 13 wins, one win shy of their total from last April and May combined, the Miami Marlins are confident in the offense that was constructed to improve one of baseball's worst lineups in 2013. While Giancarlo Stanton, Casey McGehee, Christian Yelich, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have all contributed to Miami's early offensive success, the adjustments Marcell Ozuna made over the offseason have helped him become a solid center fielder.
While he was still healthy, Ozuna split time with Jake Marisnick, who is considered to be the Marlins' center fielder of the future. But in a battle that didn't last long this spring, Ozuna, coming back from a thumb injury that landed him on the disabled list last year, Ozuna won the job despite a spring average below .200.
"It doesn't matter. I said early in the season, I want to be in the lineup," Ozuna said. "If it is nine, after the pitcher, it doesn't matter. Just get up there, in the box, and see the ball, hit the ball, that's it."
In 70 games last season, Ozuna batted .265 to complement 32 RBIs and a 1.6 WAR. At several points last year, an inexperienced Ozuna struggled to see many pitches after swinging and missing consistently at breaking balls out of the strike zone.
Although it is a small sample size, April's offensive approach is the result of the implementation of hitting coach Frank Menechino's style. For a very young lineup, it appears that after the Tino Martinez incident and Eduardo Perez inconsistencies in years past, the Marlins' front office found a hitting instructor to help improve an obvious weakness.
Ozuna's versatility has also been a key element to his success. While he opened the season towards the bottom of the order, Ozuna has seen time in the two spot and has proved to be a valuable part of bottom half of the lineup when he is placed there.
Heading into Thursday night's game against Atlanta, Ozuna drove in 16 runs while getting on base at a .364 clip. A more patient mentality has helped Ozuna get on base, regardless of where he is in the order.
"I think with young guys, you kind of go with how they're feeling, how their at-bats are," manager Mike Redmond said. "Sometimes moving them down in the order makes them relax more. And sometimes when they're going good, it doesn't matter where you put them. You put them up there and they get more fastballs and they're squaring everything up."
Ozuna, a free swinger, is offering power to the bottom of the order, which is making the lineup deeper.
For a team whose offense was historically poor last year, Ozuna's offseason adjustments have not only helped the Marlins stay in games, but have also bought more time for Marisnick to develop offensively.