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Who will be part of the Marlins nucleus under new ownership? Part II

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Next on the list: Marcell “The Big Bear” Ozuna

Miami Marlins v New York Mets
Marcell Ozuna
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Marcell Ozuna is the current starting left fielder for the Miami Marlins and represents another key ingredient for the future of this team. Fellow Fish Stripes contributor toledomudhen recently laid out reasons to keep Ozuna under wraps with the Marlins at least until next year.

Background

The 26 year old Ozuna was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and is another one of the Marlin’s “home-grown” rising stars. Marcell is not without some MLB pedigree in his lineage as he is the cousin of former MLB player Pablo Qzuna. In 2008 at age 18, Marcell was signed as by the Florida Marlins as a undrafted free agent.

Minor League Ball

Ozuna’s five seasons in the minors and parts of two others began in February, 2008 where he started his professional career with the DSL Marlins. Even at an early age Ozuna’s potential as a power hitter was obvious. He hit six home runs and drove in 43 runs in 63 games. In 2009, he played for the GCL Marlins and started 2010 with Greensboro in Single A ball. After recovering from a wrist injury that same year, Ozuna landed in short season ball with Jamestown, where he exhibited his power once again hitting 22 home runs in 74 games while slugging at a .532 clip with an impressive OPS of .838.

Marcell’s steady rise and progression through the minors continued with a stop in Greensboro in 2011. Injury free, he belted 23 home runs and sported an OPS of .812 in 131 games. Arguably his breakout year occurred in 2012 when he played 176 games between the High A Jupiter Hammerheads and the Dominican Winter League, Gigantes del Cibao. He smashed 33 home runs, collected 122 RBI and had an OPS of .790. Please don’t turn up your nose at the time he spent in the Dominican Winter League either. Some of his teammates that year included MLB players Nelson Cruz, Alexi Casilla, and Jean Segura. How cool would it be to spend a week in the Dominican some winter just watching guys like that play baseball?...but I digress.

Miami Marlins

After spending the start of the 2013 season in the minors (Jupiter/Jacksonville), Ozuna made his major league debut on April 30th. He played in 70 games for the Marlins that year before a thumb injury cut his rookie year short. He hit .265 but had only 3 HR’s and an OPS of .693.

Since 2015, Qzuna’s hitting has steady improved, despite a hiccup and brief demotion to the minors for 40 games in that same year, (much to the displeasure of his agent Scott Boras). Ozuna’s batting average has trended upwards from 2015-2017 YTD from .259/.266/.311. His slugging line is .383/.452/.560 and his OPS numbers are following suit at .691/.773/.936. His OPS+ this year is 146, WAR 5.0 and Ozuna has 31 home runs which ranks him tied for second among NL outfielders. He is, additionally, above average defensively and sports a DRS of 7.

The Bleacher Report’s mid year ranking placed two-time All Star Ozuna at #5 for major league outfielders ahead of MLB standouts, Mike Trout, Charlie Blackmon and Cody Bellinger.

OK, so what’s the problem? Two words......Scott Boras. Ozuna is under team control for 2018 and 2019, where he will be arbitration eligible and an unrestricted free agent in 2020. For the Marlins to have any chance of signing Ozuna, they will have to act sooner rather than later or Ozuna will be sure to test the free agent waters under Boras. When Marcell made his major league debut in 2013, he was called up to fill a spot vacated by Giancarlo Stanton who was injured at the time. Ironically, the only way for the Marlins to afford Ozuna may be to unload Stanton and his enormous contract. It’s difficult to envision them being able to afford both players in the future.