MLB Transaction Analysis: Marcell Ozuna, Starling Marte
The past 10 days or so have seen quite a flurry of moves across the MLB landscape, particularly regarding some significant fantasy baseball names that have landed in new homes rather it be via free-agent signing or trade. As has previously been covered here at FantasyPros, Nick Castellanos‘ four year deal with the Reds was announced on January 27. This article, however, will take a look at two other outfielders that have proven track records of strong offensive production.
Marcell Ozuna to clean up in Atlanta
Ozuna spent the past two seasons regularly lining up in the fourth spot of the Cardinals batting order, and now, after agreeing to a one-year pact with the Braves last week, he is expected to resume that role for the two-time defending N.L. East Champions. It was somewhat surprising to see Ozuna settle for a one-year contract when his services were reportedly in high demand, but reports suggested that the 29-year-old slugger was eyeing Atlanta as a potential destination and it did not help his outlook that draft-pick compensation was attached to whichever team, aside from the Cards of course, ultimately signed him.
The Braves somewhat surprisingly lost out on resigning star third baseman and 2019 cleanup man Josh Donaldson this offseason, so the club found itself in need of a powerful bat to bolster the middle of the offense. Coming off of a season that saw him smack 29 home runs while slugging .472 across 130 games, Ozuna fits the mold precisely.
The 32 missed games due to injury and a career-low .241 batting average were certainly the red marks on Ozuna’s ledger from last year, but perhaps his most impressive and important stretch of the season came in a 9-for-21 performance that included two homers and three doubles in the NLDS versus his new employer. Plus, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that his dip in batting average from a career .277 mark prior to the 2019 campaign was largely the result of poor luck.
Ozuna holds a career .315 BABIP, but in 2019, he recorded a meager .259 while actually posting a career-best 48.1 percent hard-hit rate and 12.6 percent barrel rate. That hard-hit rate placed him in the top-10 among all qualifiers in the bigs last season and that barrel rate was good enough to find him in the top-25. With Ozuna gearing up to hit immediately behind three All-Stars in Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman this year, a huge season including 30-plus homers,100-plus RBI, and return to a solid batting average is not merely a possibility but a very reasonable expectation.
Starling Marte brings extra venom to D-Backs
Marte’s name had been thrown around in trade rumors virtually all offseason long before the Diamondbacks and Pirates finally agreed to a swap for the dual-threat veteran this past Monday. The Pirates were able to land a couple of prospects of 19-year-old prospects for their rebuilding effort in pitcher Brennan Malone and shortstop Liover Peguero in exchange for Marte. For the D-Backs, that was obviously more than a fair price in order to add the dynamic offensive ability of Marte to what already had the makings of a fairly strong lineup.
Marte, who has combined for 43 home runs and 58 steals over the past two seasons, is expected to step into a trio with 2019 breakout performers Eduardo Escobar and Ketel Marte atop the D-Backs batting order that could flat out wreak havoc. The two-hole seems quite likely for the new Arizona center fielder who is coming off the best power numbers of his career.
Last season in Pittsburgh, the now 31-year-old Marte popped a career-high 23 round-trippers while slugging north of .500 for the first time and posting personal bests with an .845 OPS and .208 ISO. He was able to hit those 23 home runs while missing 30 games due to injury, and it is also important to note that Marte was still able to swipe 25 bags in 31 attempts.
Considering all that, the potential of a 30-30 campaign may very well come to mind for many heading into fantasy baseball drafts, but, while certainly not impossible, it is a little lofty. A strong batting average with 20-25 in each category is much more in order. That definitely plays quite well for fantasy purposes, and with the lineup Marte is now a part of, 80-plus runs and RBI seem like his floor. He will be gone in the first few rounds on draft day and rightly so. There just simply are not that many players to go around with the power-speed combo of Marte.