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Marcell Ozuna to Braves - Fantasy Impact

When Josh Donaldson signed with the Minnesota Twins, it appeared the Atlanta Braves would be left with a giant hole in their batting order. We don't need to worry any longer, as they have fixed that problem by signing outfielder Marcell Ozuna.

The 29-year-old Ozuna turned down the St. Louis Cardinals' $17.8 million qualifying offer to test the free-agent market. After a few months of negotiating for a multi-year deal, Ozuna settled for a one-year $18 million deal with the Braves. With the signing, he should slide into the fourth spot in the Braves batting order behind Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman.

Ozuna's signing helps Atlanta remain a favorite to win the N.L. East, but what are the implications on his draft stock, and those of his teammates?

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Ozuna's Fantasy Impact

Ozuna spent two seasons with the Cardinals where he battled injuries and did not quite perform up to the expectations that the team had when they traded for him after an amazing 2017. In his final season with the Miami Marlins, he had an outstanding stat line of .312-37-93-124-1. In 2018, he saw his power production decrease to only 23 home runs and an ISO of .153, which was down from his career ISO of .183. Some of the power returned in 2019 with 29 home runs and an ISO of .231, but he saw his batting average drop to a career-low .243. 

The question becomes, “why the drop in production?” It's especially puzzling since he moved to a better team in a more favorable ballpark. When you look at his Statcast page from 2019, Ozuna jumps off the page. He had a career-best 12.6% barrel rate to go with a Hard-Hit rate of 49.2%. Ozuna also became much more patient at the plate, increasing his walk rate to 11.3%. In his career, he has always underperformed based on his xStats, and that was no different in 2019 as his xBA, xSLG, and xWOBA were all much better than his production. These numbers are great and all, but the fantasy stats we care about were still too low for Ozuna’s standards. Let's dig deeper.

In 2019, Ozuna saw his BABIP drop to a career-low .259 compared to his career average BABIP of .315. While his BABIP decreased, his overall plate discipline increased, leading to more walks. Ozuna walked more, but in doing so his patience had an effect on his overall production. His first pitch swing rate dropped 4.1%, his overall swing rate dropped 3.6% and his zone swing rate dropped 4.2%. Going even deeper on Statcast you will notice Ozuna was less aggressive on really good pitches to hit as well. His meatball rate dropped a full percent and his meatball swing rate dropped 4.9%. He was not taking advantage of the pitches power hitters need to attack most.


What to Expect in 2020

There was a lot of good and bad in 2019, so what should we expect in 2020? The change from St. Louis to Atlanta will be a plus ballpark change. His increased pull rate and increased line-drive rate should result in more power with the Braves. A healthy season should definitely help as well. He did steal a career-high 12 bases in 2019, but do not count on that in 2020 as his overall sprint speed is average at best.

Projections have Ozuna back to a 30-home run hitter with an average around .270 and that would be a really solid season. Currently, Ozuna is being drafted just outside the top 100, and if the projections are correct, he will be much better than his current ADP. A healthy Ozuna in Atlanta should result in a top-20 outfielder and a really nice fantasy asset in the outfield.


Overall Impact for the Braves Outfield

With Ozuna joining the Braves that does create a bigger logjam in the outfield. Ozuna will join Acuña as everyday outfielders, but there is still Nick Markakis, Adam Duvall, and Ender Inciarte. Markakis should get most of the at-bats in right field, but there will still be some platoon time for Duvall and Inciarte. Markakis has some deep league appeal while Duvall and Inciarte should not be drafted.

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