April 30, 2013
The Situation: Though he has played only 10 games above High-A, the Marlins are looking to 22-year-old outfielder Marcell Ozuna to fill the void left created by Giancarlo Stanton’s trip to the disabled list with a hamstring injury. The Marlins added Ozuna to their 40-man roster over the offseason, which made the decision to call him up now that much easier. The 22-year-old, who was ranked no. 10 on BP’s Marlins Top 10 list by, was hitting .333 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 10 games for Double-A Jacksonville.
Background: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, Ozuna debuted with the Marlins’ DSL affiliate that summer, posting a .279 batting average while knocking 14 doubles and six home runs as a 17-year-old. Playing in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2009, Ozuna continued to excel at a young age, this time hitting .313 in 55 games and blasting another 22 doubles and five more home runs. After starting with Low-A Greensboro in 2010, Ozuna broke a bone in his left wrist, forcing him to miss the next two months. After recovering, Ozuna tore through the New York-Penn League, leading the league in home runs (21) and runs batted in (60). The Marlins gave him another crack at Low-A in 2011, and he handled it well, posting a .266/.330/.482 line in 131 games. After a promotion to High-A for the 2012 season, Ozuna nearly duplicated his batting line (.266/.328/.476) while leading the Florida State League in home runs (24) and RBI (95).
Scouting Report: Ozuna is physically mature, with plus athleticism and a well-built frame that tapers from the shoulders to the waist and supplies plenty of natural strength. He is an average runner down the line and can turn in a little more speed in the outfield once he’s underway. His athleticism and decent speed can play in center field right now, but he profiles much better in right field, where his 70-grade arm is a true weapon. Once he adjusts to reading the ball off the bat at the big-league level, Ozuna should be a plus defender.
In addition to his big-time arm strength, Ozuna owns another plus-plus tool: raw power. Thanks to his strength and the leverage in his swing, Ozuna can drive the ball out of any part of the park. Most of his power shows to the pull side right now, but when he stays back and trusts his hands he has the strength to drive it out the other way as well. Ozuna’s biggest question mark is his hitting ability. He has a ton of swing-and-miss in his game and may not hit more than .240-.250 in the big leagues. He doesn’t always recognize breaking balls, and because he tends to drift forward as he loads his swing, he is often out of balance and swings through pitches. Even as a .250 hitter, Ozuna could knock 20-25 home runs a year at his peak.
Immediate Big-League Future: Ozuna appears destined to head back to the minor leagues when Stanton returns from the disabled list. However, he could change that course with a strong performance over the next two weeks, forcing the Marlins to reconsider an outfield that currently includes Juan Pierre (.500 OPS in 23 games), Justin Ruggiano (.721 OPS in 22 games), Chris Coghlan (.451 OPS in 19 games) and Austin Kearns (.510 OPS in 17 games). Still raw at the plate, Ozuna will likely be prone to lengthy droughts at the plate, but his power potential may be enough to allow him to continue accruing at-bats in Miami even after Stanton returns. —Mark Anderson
Fantasy Impact: Apparently the Marlins’ new development philosophy is that the upper minors are for squares. After only 42 at-bats above High-A, Marcell Ozuna is getting the call to serve as their everyday right fielder until Giancarlo Stanton returns. Of course, those 42 at-bats were very successful ones, but that doesn't change the size of the sample. A notoriously streaky hitter, Ozuna is currently on fire, hitting .370 with five homers and 12 RBI in just his last six games in Jacksonville. There certainly could be a "lightning in a bottle" element here, which is why Ozuna (while likely not ready for a long-term major-league assignment) bears watching for fantasy.
Mark Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @ProspectMark