With the Miami Marlins down 1-0 with two outs in the top of the 9th inning in an otherwise uneventful game Tuesday night, Marcell Ozuna stepped to the plate, against Arizona Diamondbacks closer Addison Reed. Reed is a bit of a rollercoaster ride as a closer, but he had just struck out Marlins All-Star Giancarlo Stanton, and gotten Marlins should be All-Star Casey (Hits) McGehee to line out to centerfield. The count ran to two balls and two strikes, with the crowd on its feet expecting a game ending strikeout. Ozuna had other plans. He lined the next pitch to dead center field for a go ahead homerun silencing the Chase Field crowd. This made for another highlight reel moment in the development of Marcell Ozuna.
A little over a month ago, Fish Stripes own Paul Washington wrote about how Ozuna was quietly having a very good season. Since then he has only gotten better. This season has seen Marcell Ozuna hit towering homeruns, throw out runners at the plate to win a ballgame, but most importantly he has developed as a baseball player, and that has shown up in his production.
Last season Ozuna turned in a very respectable rookie year hitting .265/.303/.389, with five homeruns, and 15 RBI in 291 plate appearances. He struggled initially with plate discipline, and defensively, but seemed to get better as the season progressed. Ozuna's numbers were along the lines of what you would expect from a young player making his major league debut.
So far this season, over a larger sample size of 354 plate appearances, Ozuna has improved tremendously. Currently he is hitting .279/.328/.469, with 15 homeruns, 51 RBI, and 45 runs scored. His wRC+ has risen from a below league average 90 in 2013 to an above league average 121 this season.
Most surprisingly, Ozuna's walk rate has jumped from 4.5 % to 7.1%. The most dramatic gains have been made on defense, however. Last season Ozuna had -2 defensive runs saved, while this season he is tied for third in defensive runs saved by an outfielder with 11. The all-around betterment of his game has made Ozuna worth 2.1 WAR in only 81 games in 2014.
Ozuna is a unique player, his surge in power and excellent defense should raise his ceiling as a major leaguer. He will never be a player with an extremely high OBP, due to his free swinging approach, but if he can keep the walk rate high enough to produce an OBP in the mid .300's his power and now elite defense will make him an All-Star caliber player in the future. Along with this production, Ozuna sure has shown a fondness for making memorable, and exciting plays.
First it was throwing out Mets base-runners attempting to score in back to back innings to seal a victory, and last night it was that dramatic two strike game-winning homerun. What will he think of next? The day, the location, and the opponents change, but Marcell Ozuna stays awesome.