Source: Marcel Ozuna has been traded to the Cardinals. The deal is pending a physical.
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) December 13, 2017
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 13, 2017
After failing to attract former Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, the Cardinals have been linked to Ozuna heavily in the past week. Now, they’ve nabbed the middle-of-the-order presence the team has desired.
Marcell Ozuna’s breakout year
Marcell Ozuna put together a career year in 2017, finishing 15th in MVP voting, winning a gold glove and silver slugger, and as earning an All-Star nod.
In every offensive category, Ozuna posted career highs. He slashed .312/.376/.548, slugged 37 homers, and drove in 124 runs. From an analytical approach, Ozuna posted 142 wRC+, 5.8 WAR, and 38 RAA, each a career high. With runners in scoring position, he hit .356, good for 9th best in the National League.
Ozuna’s walk rate improved by jumping two percent to 9.4% in 2017. His strikeout rate of 21.2% remained consistent to his past output, but has fallen significantly since 2014, when he whiffed in over a fourth of his at-bats.
Often considered an inconsistent player, Ozuna put such criticism to rest in 2017. The longest he went without recording a hit was just three games in late April. His largest hitting streak was 11 games.
Since his first full season in 2014, Ozuna has improved nearly every year. The 2015 season proved an outlier. He struggled mightily, and was eventually sent down to Triple-A in July for over a month. It appears as if Ozuna has put his 2015 season in the past and now has solidified himself as a legitimate offensive catalyst.
Ozuna’s incredible season was certainly overshadowed by Stanton’s, and now he will be a fixture in the heart of the Cardinal lineup for at least the next few years. The Scott Boras client will not be eligible for free agency until the winter of 2020.
Taking their talents to South Beach
Heading to the Marlins is hard-throwing prospect Sandy Alcantara. Alcantara is the #9 prospect according to MLB pipeline.
In a brief major league stint with the Cardinals in 2017, Alcantara posted a 4.32 ERA, struck out 10, and allowed opponents to bat .273 in just 8.1 innings pitched. Even with a limited sample size, Alcantara’s fastball, which recorded an average velocity of 98.5 mph reached the fifth-highest velocity in baseball in 2017.
Alcantara’s pitching repertoire is filthy, but even with his electric stuff, he has to improve at missing bats.
Also joining Alcantara as the headliner is Magneuris Sierra, the #6 propect in the system. Sierra is a 21-year-old outfielder with a above-average glove and plus speed. Playing a limited time in St. Louis in 2017, Sierra impressed. In 60 at-bats, he recorded a .317 average while driving in five and scoring 10 times. Sierra’s minimal power won’t ignite the infamous Marlins sculpture all that often, but he could be a fixture patrolling center in the vast outfield of Marlins Park for the foreseeable future.
Gallen, a 22-year-old, right-handed pitcher and the #13 prospect, had a solid season split between Triple-A, Double-A, and High-A. Across all three levels, he posted a combined ERA of 2.93 and 121 strikeouts in 147.2 IP, holding hitters to just a .245 batting average. Meanwhile, 23-year-old lefty Daniel Castano has yet to advance past Low-A. He pitched well there in 2017 though, owning a 2.57 ERA, a 9-3 record, and 81 strikeouts in 91 innings pitched.