2014 Fantasy Baseball: Where is the Love feat. Marcell Ozuna
Yes, that headline is a tribute to a Black Eyed Peas song (you must listen to it as you read). I chose it for twos reasons: I’m a terrible person and I suck at writing headlines.
When you think about it, 162 games isn’t a very large sample. After you consider that most full time players will play around 140-150 games, if they’re lucky, you realize sample sizes become even smaller. In fantasy baseball, though, we don’t have the luxury of waiting an entire season to make decisions. Small samples become gospel, in some sense.
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Earlier this week, I was playing around on Fangraphs’ leaderboards (shocker). When I looked at the last 14 days, I noticed some interesting names. Nelson Cruz has been the best hitter over the past 14 days. Edwin Encarnacion, Khris Davis, George Springer, and Mike Trout round out the top five. Scrolling down the list, I noticed an intriguing name: Marcell Ozuna.
Ozuna made his major league debut. His call-up shocked mostly everyone, because he was/still is considered “raw.” Ozuna is undoubtedly a “raw” player. His plate discipline isn’t very good. Nor is his strikeout rate. Yet he keeps getting good-ish results. What gives?
Ozuna’s slash line isn’t mind-blowing: .266/.313/.452, of this writing. Over the past 14 days, he’s slashed .333/.391/.667, buoyed by four long balls. Ozuna showed glimpses of his potential last season and he’s shown more of them this season. Ozuna’s had better results this year. He’s also been a little different at the plate.
Ozuna’s swung a little less this year, both inside the zone and out of it. He’s also made less contact, although losing contact on pitches out of the zone isn’t a death knell because balls out of the zone that are put in play usually don’t amount to much. It appears, at least according to these numbers, that Ozuna is selling out for more power.
So far, flyballs off of Ozuna’s bat have averaged 284 feet, roughly a 30 feet increase from 2013’s number. Granted, we’re dealing with small sample sizes here. In 2013, Ozuna hit 71 flyballs. He’s already hit 60 in 2014. If you prefer rate stats, his flyball percentage has jumped from 32.6% to 40.3%. His home run/flyball rate has climbed from 4.2% to 16.7%. A jump that large usually screams: “regression.” Regression might come, but I’m not sure it will be too rough.
Of Ozuna’s 10 home runs, not one has been very cheap. Seven of the ten would have left all 30 major league parks, according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker. One would have left 27 parks. The other two would have left all but five parks. To add a little more context: Ozuna’s average homer distance is greater than Brandon Moss’; better than Josh Donaldson’s; and better than Miguel Cabrera’s. Ozuna has a ton of raw power.
Ozuna’s power explosion is due, in part, to his success pulling the ball. In 2013, Ozuna hit had a 137 wRC+ mark on balls he pulled. He’s done more damage this season; to the tune of a 316 wRC+. A number that high isn’t sustainable, but it’s a marked change. Interestingly enough, though, he’s actually pulling the ball less this season than he did last year. Admittedly, I’d basically already typed: “he’s pulling the ball this season,” in my head. Thankfully, things aren’t that simple.
Ozuna’s pulling the ball less, but he’s also hitting more balls in the air when he does pull them – 24.1% FB rate in 2014 versus 15% in 2013. If you’re thinking: “Ozuna’s stats are weird,” you aren’t alone. As you’ll notice in the charts above, Ozuna has decent power the other way. There are a few deep flyouts. For the most part, when Ozuna hits the ball the other way, he’s not hitting it with much authority. We can’t blame it on luck either. Ozuna’s FB rate when going the other way is a staggering 62%. Flyballs have the lowest BABiP of any batted ball type, so his poor performance going the other way has been warranted. One would think he’ll be a little better going the other way going forward, but we’ll see.
So, we’ve established two things: Ozuna’s batted ball profile is very weird and he’s seemingly translating his raw power into games. Ozuna’s pulling the ball more, which is good for his power, but he might actually benefit from pulling the ball even more.
When I look at Marcell Ozuna, I see a player that isn’t that different from offseason darling Khris Davis; perhaps I’m just a sucker for loud tools, but that’s for another day. Ozuna walks a little more, hits a few more groundballs, and probably has a little less power. Davis has a longer track record, but Ozuna is also much younger. Seriously, look at how similar they are.
One of these guys was a “must draft.” The other was waiver wire fodder; might still be. Weird stuff.
All stats are as of Wednesday, June 3.