With the Marlins’ snazzy new uniforms and all of the big-name free-agents connected to the team this offseason, it’s easy to lose sight of what the club already has lurking in the outfield. His name is Mike Stanton, and he is a monster.
The recently turned 22-year-old likes to swing the bat, and quite often he will miss completely. But when the Marlins’ outfielder makes contact look out, the ball has a tendency to go very, very far.
The 2007 baseball amateur draft saw two very talented players land in the NL East. Drafted with the 14th pick overall, the Atlanta Braves got themselves the immensely talented Jason Heyward. A potential five-tool player built like Lebron James – this right-fielder was touted as a guy who could do it all.
The Marlins then landed Stanton in the second round. Scouts saw Stanton’s power right off the bat, but were leery of his plate discipline. It’s easy to see why Heyward and Stanton will always be compared to each other – they were drafted in the same class, play the same position in the same division, and were both highly talented players.
Both of these guys made quick impressions on the baseball world in their debuts. On April 5th of 2010, Jayson Heyward went 2-5 with a homer and four RBIs against the Cubbies. Just a little more than two months later, Stanton debuted in Philadelphia, going 3-5 against the Phillies and scoring two runs.
Despite Stanton’s 22 moon shots in his rookie campaign, it was Heyward who grabbed a vast majority of the spotlight. The Braves right fielder finished second in the NL rookie of the year ballot behind San Francisco’s Buster Posey. Heyward finished up 2010 with pretty impressive numbers hitting .277/.393/.456 with 18 jacks. At this juncture, it was safe to say Heyward was on the path to greatness.
But fast-forward to the present. All of the talk surrounding Atlanta’s rising stars has completely switched gears. Closer Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman have stolen all of the hype from Mr. Heyward. The 2011 NL rookie of the year award which will be announced later today begins and ends with these two guys. Due to a brutal sophomore slump and nagging injuries, Heyward completely fell off the map.
Last season Jason Heyward hit for a weak .227/.319/.389 line with only 14 homers. His RBIs and walks were also pretty much cut in half. NL pitchers this time around seemed to find the glitches in Heyward’s swing, as the Braves’ outfielder had himself a year he’d probably like to forget.
Meanwhile in southern Florida, Stanton had a monstrous year at the plate, hitting .262 and swatting 34 homers while notching 87 RBIs. The Marlins’ slugger still battled issues with strikeouts however, as he went down swinging 27% of the time. But the power nonetheless is very real. Many of Stanton’s homers traveled way over 400 feet, and on many of these dingers, it didn’t even seem like the youngster made solid contact.
Stanton has a ways to go if he wants to have a historical career. But very few players in history have accumulated 56 homers before they turned 22. For one, Alex Rodriguez had 64 homers before he turned 22, and as long as the steroids thing is forgiven, he is going to be a hall-of-famer. Ken Griffey Jr. also had 60 homers before he turned 22, and he is no doubt going to the hall.
If you want to draw comparisons to a guy already in the hall, one player will jump right out at you. He known as “Mr. October.” Reggie Jackson’s numbers his first couple of seasons are very similar to Stanton’s. Similar batting average with lots of home runs and strike outs.
Like I said, Stanton has a long way to go if he wants to achieve similar success to some of these other giants of the game. But when a guy breaks into the majors at the age of 20 and puts up these types of totals, it is definitely something to think about.
With a little more discipline at the plate, Stanton could morph into one of baseball’s best players. He needs to lay off the breaking balls in the dirt and the fastballs up and out of the zone. If he can do this who knows, he might indeed be the next Reggie Jackson. And if the Marlins are really going to go out and spend intense money on the free-agent market this offseason, this could only help boost protection for Stanton in the lineup.