2017 stats: 679 PA, .312 AVG, .376 OBP, 37 HR, 124 RBI, 5.8 WAR (Baseball Reference)
Due to enduring a prolonged and desperate slump over the second half of 2016, when he hit a dire .209 over 63 games after making his first All-Star Game appearance, Marcell Ozuna had a lot to prove entering the 2017 season.
Billed by many as the Marlins’ third outfielder (albeit, a very talented third outfielder) behind perennial slugger Giancarlo Stanton and potential future batting champion Christian Yelich, Ozuna came out of the gates hot with six home runs and 21 RBI in April while batting .295, and he only got better as the year progressed.
Buoyed by 34 multi-hit games over the first three and a bit months of the season, Ozuna was selected as an All-Star for the second-straight year, and he used that distinction as motivation to finish the year with a strong second-half this time around, posting the second-best batting average on the team after the Midsummer Classic.
If you were told that Ozuna would break the long-standing single-season Marlins RBI record, hit the third-most home runs in franchise history, and win both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award before the season began, you would have probably been skeptical at first considering Ozuna's lack of consistency over the years, but may have also thought about chanting "MVP" (as those stats rival Giancarlo Stanton's 2014 season, when he finished second in voting for the prestigious award).
However, Giancarlo Stanton happened, and he exceeded both the home run and RBI marks first, and by a long way, setting franchise records that may never be broken. As a result, most people, particularly outside of Miami, forgot about Ozuna, and it unfairly diminishes his accomplishments a little. One of the best international signings the Marlins have ever made, 2017 turned out to be Ozuna's Miami swansong as he was dealt to the Cardinals earlier this month for prospects Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, Zac Gallen, and Daniel Castano.
2018 will be a bittersweet year for Marcell Ozuna; he will no longer be playing in Stanton's shadow, but he has also been separated from his close friends and will face higher scrutiny on a team that is expected to make it to the playoffs. Regardless of his future, Ozuna just posted one of the best offensive seasons in Marlins history, and achieving such a feat deserves the appropriate amount of recognition.