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Atlanta Braves 2023 season review: Marcell Ozuna’s resilient return to form.

Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Four

Marcell Ozuna had a trainwreck beginning to the 2023 season but the destination was anything but a disaster.

The Atlanta Braves didn’t know what to expect from Marcell Ozuna before the 2023 season began. So much drama occurred in Ozuna’s personal and professional life during the last couple of years. Fans had started to lose their patience with their designated hitter.

2023 started roughly for the slugger as he was on the verge of having the worst season we’ve ever seen by a Brave in recent memory. He looked like he might force Atlanta’s hand and lose his position on the team. I can attest to being very done with Ozuna at the end of April.

Through the first month of the season, Ozuna carried a .085 batting average across 18 total games played. It was one of the roughest stretches I remember seeing a player go through. This brought up some painful memories of the B.J. Upton era in Atlanta (sorry to remind you of that).

However, as May rolled around, the Braves found themselves on a weekend road trip in Miami. Something clicked and Ozuna was back. Marcell was 6-for-15 with 3 home runs and 6 RBI in the 3-game set. Fans were hesitant to believe he would sustain this success, but to the chagrin of many, he did just that.

From May 2 to October 1, Ozuna amassed a slash line of .297/.366/.603 with a .969 OPS and 3.3 fWAR. He clobbered 38 home runs and drove in 98 runs during that time as well. This brought his final season average to .274 with 145 hits including 40 HR and 100 RBI.

He reached the 40-homer mark on the final day of the season by hitting 2 home runs in one game. The second home run of the game tied the 2023 Atlanta Braves for the most home runs hit in a regular MLB season at 307. That tied the Minnesota Twins who set the team record back in 2019.

The entire Braves offense did incredible things to contribute to an amazing and historic season. Marcell Ozuna was right in the middle of that success not only with his on-the-field performance but also his presence in the clubhouse.

Michael Harris II and Matt Olson both praised Ozuna for being an incredible teammate and leader.

Harris specifically mentioned a pep talk that Ozuna had with him to remind Michael that he needs to trust himself and control the things he can control. Harris had this to say when asked about it:

““He was just reminding me that I have the potential to be one of the better players in the league and try to believe in myself, and go out there and not worry about any mechanical things… just go out and play.””

Reporters in the clubhouse asked Marcell about this conversation as well and he echoed those words almost to a tee. He stated:

““Hey, you’re the best center fielder in the league – not even in the league, in (all of) MLB… So you gotta trust yourself. Since now, your season starts. Don’t worry about anything in the past, earlier this season. Don’t worry about anything in the past. Forget about everything and start the season now.””

– Marcell Ozuna to MHII

Marcell pushing through that slump allowed him to come out stronger on the other side. He and Olson were watching a video of Matt’s swing and Ozuna noticed that Olson was dropping his hands instead of keeping them straight through the zone. After that conversation, Olson hit 5 home runs en route to his franchise record of 54 HR in a single season.

This showed everyone that Ozuna wasn’t the same player he was a few years ago. The off-field and on-field issues had shaped him into a better player and human being. It shows you why the Atlanta front office was willing to be patient with Marcell through the struggles. Alex Anthopoulos said there was never discussion of releasing him.

Such an admirable performance most likely solidified Ozuna’s place on the 2024 roster. He will be in the final year of his 4-year, $65 million contract. He will earn $16 million. Unless the Braves need to include Ozuna in a trade for pitching, I’d be shocked if he isn’t the DH on Opening Day.

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