Ozuna named DH of Year in first look at role  

December 11th, 2020

ATLANTA -- might not be ready to become a designated hitter on a full-time basis. But when introduced to the role this year, he proved to be one of the game’s best.

Ozuna was announced as the winner of the 2020 Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award on Friday night. The 30-year-old slugger was only eligible for this honor because MLB allowed National League teams to use the DH as part of COVID-19 protocols this year.

While helping the Braves win a third straight NL East title and finish a win shy of the World Series, Ozuna showed he can still be one of the game’s top offensive threats. He hit an NL-best 18 homers while producing career bests in batting average (.338), on-base percentage (.431) and slugging percentage (.636).

Though he was used as an outfielder in 15 of the Braves’ first 32 games, Ozuna ended up spending a majority of his time as Atlanta’s DH. A defensive decline will likely see him fill this role on a more consistent basis over the remainder of his career.

In the 179 plate appearances Ozuna logged at DH, he had a .362/.464/.691 slash line. His 1.155 OPS in this role trumped those produced by Nelson Cruz (.997), Franmil Reyes (.800), Miguel Cabrera (.743) and every other DH.

This was a satisfying season for Ozuna, who gambled on himself with the one-year, $18 million deal he signed in January. His offensive production had declined over the previous two seasons with the Cardinals. But as the year progressed, he distanced himself from the shoulder surgery performed two years ago and looked like the imposing threat he was with the Marlins in 2017.

Ozuna ranked third in the Majors with 179 weighted runs created plus. The only two players with higher marks were Juan Soto and Freddie Freeman, who credited his NL MVP Award with the chance to hit between Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozuna.

Over a 162-game season, Ozuna was on pace for 48 homers and 151 RBIs. Both numbers would have topped the career-best totals he produced in 2017 while hitting 37 homers and driving in 124 runs for Miami.

With Ozuna as one of the top free agents available, interested teams can be encouraged that his average exit velocity (93 mph) and hard-hit rate (54.4 percent) both ranked among the game’s top 5 percent this year.

In addition to this honor for 2020, Ozuna picked up his second career Silver Slugger Award, was named All-MLB First Team at DH and finished sixth place in NL MVP voting.