Exit Interview 2019: Marcell Ozuna

Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat.  Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them.  The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable.  Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter.  Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.

If we’re talking about 2019, we’ve got to highlight the brand that made the most impact this season: Primos and their partnership with Jose Martinez.  Throughout the span of these interviews (today through Dec. 5) you can get 10% off your order of that sweet, sweet Cafecito coffee (well, I guess you probably have to doctor it to make it sweet) or anything else at their site.  My wife is a coffee snob and we’ve bought multiple bags of the medium roast.  It’s a great stocking stuff or Christmas gift as well, especially when you expand your order to pick up the Jose Martinez coffee mug.  So use code C70SAVE10 at checkout and show your support of their ties to the Cardinal fanbase!

Player: Marcell Ozuna

Season stats: 130 G, 549 PA, 80 R, 117 H, 23 2B, 1 3B, 29 HR, 89 RBI, 12 SB, 2 CS, 62 BB, 114 K, .241/.328/.472, 107 OPS+, 2.2 bWAR

Statcast: 12.6% barrel %, 91.8 exit velocity, 49.2% hard hit %, .382 xwOBA

Hero/Goat: Hero 14, Goat 15

Overall grade: B

Positives: Had a career high barrel percentage, finished in the top 7% of the league in exit velocity, and placed in the top 4% of the league in hard hit percentage….played in his first postseason and lit the NLDS on fire, hitting two home runs and putting up a 1.335 OPS….had an .814 OPS against righties….posted an .831 OPS away from St. Louis….hit .259 in the first half and 20 of his home runs came then….hit .299 in June and had an .859 OPS in August….hit 10 home runs in April….only had one at bat outside of the cleanup position, his lone pinch-hit appearance….slashed .325/.519/.695 when he was ahead in the count….had a .954 OPS with one out in an inning….nine of his homers came with a runner in scoring position….put up a .974 OPS in high leverage situations….hit .284 with four homers against the Brewers….hit .271 during night games.

Negatives: Was injured on a pickoff play in San Diego and missed all of July….hit .184 the final two weeks of the season, though did launch two homers….hit .217 against left-handers….had a .219/.327/.411 line in the second half….had a .622 OPS in September….hit .196 on the first pitch….if the count was even, he had a .522 OPS; if he was behind, .649….slashed .200/.282/.389 with two outs….hit .231 with runners in scoring position….that average dropped to .174 with two outs and RISP….had a .690 OPS in late and close situations….put up a .774 OPS in low leverage situations….eight of his home runs came in the first inning, but he hit .227 in the frame….had a .715 OPS in the third inning….hit .238 against the Cubs….went 3-16 in the NLCS….had trouble judging a fly ball against the Brewers in St. Louis and, well, you know what I’m talking about.

Overview: It was fun to follow the reaction to Ozuna’s hot streaks and cold streaks.  When he was hot, there was a huge outcry for “they have to resign him”.  When he wasn’t, there was either quiet or “do they even risk a qualifying offer on him?”  However, for all intents and purposes, 2019 meant nothing to Marcell Ozuna’s future.  Unless he was MVP or terribly damaged, the Cards were going to extend the QO and move on.  There were times where you could see why people are enamored with him, where it looked like he could carry a team.  For instance, the second half of August he hit .333 with a couple of homers and 12 RBI.  There’s no doubt that he’s got a quick bat and the thunder can come but, at least during his time in St. Louis, it didn’t come consistently.

As expected, the Cards went the QO route and, even though there were some that thought he might accept it, he wound up rejecting it, all but assuring his time in St. Louis is over.  It’s a little disappointing, because Ozuna made such a public push for staying and he allowed his personality to come out a bit more this season.  However, with the glut of outfielders and his up-and-down production, it’s hard to see how he would fit into the picture next season.  Obviously he leaves a gap at the cleanup spot, a place he had the deed to for the last two years, but not so much of one that they’d spend $20 million or more per year to keep him around.  The trade seems to have been a good one for St. Louis but Ozuna’s time with the Cardinals has passed.

Outlook: There are already a number of teams that are interested in signing Ozuna and it seems unlikely he’ll go into late January without a suitable offer.  It would be nice to see him outside the NL Central because he does have that feel of a player that would wind up burning the Cardinals quite often, even if he didn’t do that much damage to the rest of the league.  Ozuna’s going to be someone to keep an eye on to see if he ever repeats his 2017 or if he’s just truly a slightly above average player.

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