Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Checking on Marcell Ozuna

Marcell Ozuna's promotion to the big leagues surprised a lot of people, as the 22 year old outfielder had played just 10 games above A+ before being placed on the big league squad. So far, through just over 30 games, Ozuna has good offensive numbers, but 3 strikeouts per every walk, a BABIP over .400, and really hasn't hit for power.

This is how the right-handed Ozuna has been pitched on average, along with his contact plays and swinging strikes

Nothing unusual in the graph, suggesting he is having some problems with breaking balls or off-speed pitches, along with doing better with pitches further inside.

To get a look at what pitches he is actually missing, here is the opposing pitcher spin and speed chart on the pitches he has swung and missed on.

 While there are a few above average fastballs there, there are no plus plus fastballs there and not a real congregation of fastballs. Instead, the groupings seem to be sliders, both soft and hard (a group around 84-87 and a smaller one at 78-81 MPH), and changeups (the group of pitches with similar spin as the fastballs but have clearly lower velocity).

Here are the release points on the pitchers that have made him swing and miss, along with the MLBAM pitch label.

Almost all the whiffs against lefties are against changeups, not surprising for a young hitter that may have been rushed to the Majors. He is clearly whiffing a lot against right-handers, and they are even able to use changeups to get him, suggesting he is having some really basic pitch identification problems. 

Here is what Ozuna's strike zone looks like on contact, labelled with the fielder who picked up or caught the ball

 As the average location chart showed, he is really having success on pitches on the inside part of the plate (though not necessarily up and in). He doesn't just pull inside balls, with a lot of them going to first base (suggesting perhaps he is getting jammed), or going to center, which might suggest an approach that isn't pull happy, but he is pulling more outside pitches to short or left field than you would expect. Hitting outside pitches the other way doesn't appear to be a real strength for him.

To get an idea of what kind of pitches he is hitting, here is the spin and speed chart with the location labels, on the balls he has put in play.

Clearly there is a congregation of fastballs, plus plus fastballs even. He has driven those balls mostly the other way, but he is making contact with them and not swinging and missing. Bat speed and ability to hit good fastballs clearly hasn't been a problem. It seems that a lot of the sliders he is hitting are going to shortstop and there doesn't appear to be really more than a few curveballs. He has pulled some changeups, but probably not as many as he is missing.

Here are the Release Points of the pitches he has made contact with.

  Ozuna is having a lot of success against lefties, mostly going the other way with them though. Against righties, he is hitting plenty of balls to the outfield, mostly center or pulled, with a few hit the other way, so he may just be all or nothing against right-handed pitchers.

So far from Ozuna, we are seeing some signs of youth, missing some breaking balls, but his "rawness" can be overstated, as his pitches per plate appearance and contact percentage are league average. The lack of power so far (especially since that was part of his game in the minors, and I think it is hard to find a lot prospects that had real power in the lower minors succeed in the Majors, and do it without power. That is, raw power, if legitimate, doesn't disappear) may be reflective emphasizing contact a little bit too much or is going the other way on inside pitches too much. He can handle velocity just fine, so I don't think there is a contact or mechanical issue that we should worry about in the future. Ozuna's "true" talent level offensively is a little unclear at the moment, but at the plate he is doing better than you would expect coming basically straight up from AA.

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