Braves: Marcell Ozuna has found his swing at the right time

After battling a season long slump that lasted for 2 months, things started to turn for Adam Duvall on June 4th, just 5 games after Michael Harris‘s promotion.

I don’t think that was a coincidence for a Type-1 Diabetic. Center fielders are moving on nearly every play and Duvall likely needed a break.

The Harris Effect

Before Harris’s promotion, Duvall was playing every day in CF and was an excellent defender but carried a horrid .517 OPS. From June 5th until his season ended due to injury, Adam Duvall was unstoppable, hitting for a .965 OPS with 10 HRs in 34 games. The team was 24-9 during that stretch and everything was falling into place.

Down Goes Duvall

When Adam Duvall went down, the flaws of this outfield stood out like Cool Water cologne. If it wasn’t being caught by Michael Harris II in CF, it was finding grass. We all knew that Eddie Rosario gets horrible reads and Marcell Ozuna has the range of Foghorn Leghorn and the arm of Aunt Bea, but Ozuna and Rosario weren’t alone. Ronald Acuna Jr. had his own struggles, and looked fearful of re-injury through most of the season (and rightfully so), making him one of the worst defensive outfielders in the game according to Statcast. With Eddie or Ozuna in left field, the corner OF defense was bottom of the barrel.

So…Where Do We Go From Here?

For the outfield, my Braves offseason begins with Ozuna. He just cannot be on this team. He’s the hair clogging the drain. Things cannot flow naturally and it creates this weird energy where Snitker thinks he has to play him (even though he was perfectly fine never using Charlie Culberson or Ehire Adrianza). My hope is they find a trade partner, attach a couple of pitching prospects, and wash their hands of him. If he’s here, he’ll play and continue clogging up the joint.

From there, I don’t think it necessary to spend big on the outfield. Both Harris and Acuna Jr. will be fine next year and Eddie Rosario will likely be given a chance to show that his eye problems are behind him. Rather than going big on a big OF bat, I’d like to see the real $ spent on a top of the line pitcher and SS.

However, with Rosario in left, that leaves one more need for the OF, especially a RH hitting one, and I really like Adam Duvall as the fit. He’s a great fielder, the team loves him, and he’d fit perfectly in a LF platoon. That should buy Vaughn Grissom enough time to get some OF work and join the Braves in May, playing numerous positions, now that Ozuna’s hairs aren’t clogging the drain.

*Oh Baseball Gods, I Pray to Thee*

But…What if?

If the Braves did go after an outfield bat, there aren’t many great ones on the market. If we’re talking RHHs, the list is really short for players of any impact:

  1. Aaron Judge
  2. Mitch Haniger
  3. Adam Duvall

Judge doesn’t seem like the type of player that AA would spend bucketloads on. Haniger is a good fit offensively, but has been a poor defender for his career. Duvall still seems like the best fit.

Outfield Prospects

If we’re looking toward our farm to fill the RHH left field hole, Justyn-Henry Malloy is where the conversation starts and ends (unless Vaughn Grissom or William Contreras get Winter Ball reps in the OF and prove worthy of the spot). Malloy isn’t great in the field, but his young legs could provide average defense in left and his bat should be more than sufficient if given regular reps.

Jesse Franklin V looked to be on the Michael Harris fast-track after a great 2021 campaign at Rome. Unfortunately, Franklin got KJ’d and underwent the rare position player Tommy John surgery. Hopefully he can make a full recovery and continue his good work in 2023.

Trade Scenario?

I don’t want to delve too deep into fan-fiction, but a friend sent me this over and I found it, at the least, intriguing:

Christian Yelich and cash for Marcell Ozuna

Let’s remove the elephant. Yelich is owed a TON of $. Starting next year through 2028, he will earn $26MM/year. For the Braves to even consider this, the Brewers would have to be willing to pay at least $10MM each of those years. If they did that, the Braves would be looking at Yelich essentially costing them $2MM for both ’23 and ’24, then $16MM/year through 2028.

I still wouldn’t do it, and I think a Rosario/Duvall platoon could outproduce Yelich for a fraction of the cost. Still…it was interesting and if the Brewers would throw more $…nah. Still wouldn’t.

I also floated the idea of Josh Donaldson for Ozuna a month or 2 back. That seems more realistic but still fan-fiction and very unlikely.

Thoughts on the Outfield?