The Braves' decision to hang onto veteran slugger has paid off
By Caleb Thomas,2023-05-31
Since leading the National League in home runs in 2020 and signing a four-year, $65 million contract that offseason, Marcell Ozuna has been a controversial figure in Atlanta.
He was arrested for aggravated assault by strangulation and misdemeanor battery in 2021 and served a suspension as a result.
Additionally, the Braves outfielder was charged with a DUI in Aug. 2022, sparking many jokes among fans :
During this time, Ozuna didn't win himself any favor with fans through on-field performance—he had a .278 on-base percentage in 2021 and 2022 combined and finished April of 2023 with a miserable .397 OPS.
Many fans on social media called for the team to release Ozuna and eat the remainder of his contract, but Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos had other plans.
The calendar month changed from April to May, and a switch flipped for Marcell Ozuna. In May, he's hit nine homers and posted a 1.066 OPS, a drastic improvement from his lackluster first month. While Ozuna's defense is a liability and he's not great on the base paths, he can make up for it at the plate and has in May.
The decision to hang onto Ozuna turned out to be a shrewd one, as he's been a big contributor to the Braves lineup for the month. Whether he can continue the success remains to be seen, but the signs are good.
A change in his plate approach has massively benefitted the 32-year-old slugger, with an increased walk rate making up the biggest difference between the two months of the season. Part of his increased success is due to Ozuna lifting the ball much more, taking full advantage of his raw power.
His swing is geared to lift the ball, evidenced by his recent conflicts with Dodgers catcher Will Smith:
All in all, Ozuna's resurgence has strengthened an already potent Braves lineup. If he's permanently back to his 2020 form, Atlanta has a great shot shot at winning the NL East for a sixth straight season, and maybe going even further.