MAY 28: The Braves have placed Ozuna on the IL. Utilityman Johan Camargo is up from Triple-A Gwinnett to take his place on the active roster.
MAY 26: Braves left fielder Marcell Ozuna revealed in his Instagram story today that he’ll likely be sidelined for at least six weeks after dislocating two fingers on his left hand during yesterday’s win over the Red Sox (hat tip: MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, on Twitter). The Braves have yet to formally provide their own timeline, though manager Brian Snitker will surely have more details when he meets with the media today.
It’s an unwelcome development for a Braves club that has lost several key players to injury in the season’s first two months. Mike Soroka required exploratory surgery after experiencing a setback in his recovery from last year’s Achilles tear, while Travis d’Arnaud underwent surgery to repair a thumb ligament and breakout righty Huascar Ynoa is sidelined with a broken pitching hand.
The 30-year-old Ozuna was one of baseball’s best hitters in the shortened 2020 season, pacing the NL in home runs, RBIs, total bases and plate appearances while hitting .338/.431/.636. His decision to sign with Atlanta on a one-year, $18MM deal rather than take a lesser multi-year offer elsewhere last winter paid off, as the “Big Bear” wound up securing a four-year, $65MM deal to return to the Braves this past winter.
Unfortunately, the first year of that season couldn’t have gotten out to a much worse start. Ozuna was hitting just .213/.288/.356 through 208 plate appearances. He’s still connected on seven homers and six doubles, but Ozuna’s .144 isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) is less than half last season’s career-high .298. His walk rate, exit velocity and hard-hit rate have all tumbled thus far in 2021 as well.
With Ozuna now sidelined, the Braves can lean on a combination of Ronald Acuna Jr., Cristian Pache, Ender Inciarte, Guillermo Heredia and Ehire Adrianza in the outfield, though the Braves also have toop outfield prospect Drew Waters looming in the upper minors. The 22-year-old Wates is out to a .250/.342/.453 start through 73 plate appearances in Gwinnett.