The Cardinals have gone without one of their top hitters, injured left fielder Marcell Ozuna, for over a month. The club has since grabbed a half-game lead in the National League Central, and now it’ll get Ozuna back as it works to hold off the rival Cubs and Brewers. The Cardinals are “likely” to activate Ozuna from the IL on Saturday, according to president of baseball operations John Mozeliak (via Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
Ozuna hasn’t played since June 28, when he suffered several finger fractures on his right hand in a base-running mishap. The Cardinals then recalled Tyler O’Neill from Triple-A Memphis to take Ozuna’s place. The 24-year-old O’Neill has done a decent job in the majors this season, having hit .279/.316/.434 (97 wRC+) with five home runs in 136 plate appearances, but a sure-to-fall .397 batting average on balls in play has buoyed his numbers. Furthermore, O’Neill has struck out in just under 34.0 percent of plate appearances and walked at a mere 5.1 percent clip.
No Cardinals outfielder has been as productive as Ozuna, who has slashed .259/.331/.515 (118 wRC+) and shown prodigious power (20 homers, .256 ISO) across 326 trips to the plate. Injury aside, this has been a strong platform season for Ozuna, a pending free agent who ranks as one of the best hitters scheduled to reach the open market in a few months. In the meantime, he’ll continue trying to make a case for a sizable contract while attempting to help the Cardinals to the postseason.