Is Mike Stanton Ready to be the Next Big Power Hitter?

by Jimmy Hascup

The Florida Marlins often seem like a hot-bed for young prospects with considerable upside, so it’s no wonder their latest child prodigy, right-fielder Mike Stanton, seems to be on the cusp of making it to the big leagues. Tabbed by Baseball Prospectus as “the best pure power prospect in the minors,” Stanton has done nothing in his short minor league career to refute that claim. Let’s take a look at how his 2009 campaign faired (between High-A and Double-A combined):

479 At Bats
.255 Batting Average (110 Hits)
28 Home Runs
92 RBI
76 Runs
3 Stolen Bases
.341On Base Percentage
.501 Slugging Percentage
.311 Batting Average on Balls in Play

For those who haven’t paid too much attention to prospects, Stanton also hit 39 HR, 97 RBI and batted .293 in 2008 for Single-A Greensboro…and he was 18-years-old. Add in his numbers so far in the AFL: 23 AB, .478 AVG, 1 HR, 2 RBI, and it’s pretty obvious: this guy can really hit for power.

Stanton was a three-sport star who had chances to play both college basketball and football, so his 6-5, 240 pound frame is more than just imposing to look at, it’s full of athleticism. According to the Palm Beach Post, USC offered him a full ride to play baseball and football. USC head football coach Peter Carroll even visited Stanton to try to persuade him to become his next tight end.

Ultimately though, Stanton signed with the Florida Marlins in the second round of the 2007 draft, straight out of Notre Dame High School in California. So far the transition to becoming a full-time baseball player has come relatively easy.

Earlier in the 2009 season, Stanton was rated by Baseball America as the 16th best prospect in baseball and the 2nd best Marlins prospect, behind Cameron Maybin.  Baseball Prospectus, in outlining Stanton’s game, calls his power an 80 – which is even more rare when you consider he’s translating it to his game already. If everything pans out for Stanton, BP sees him becoming “a classic right fielder with 40-plus homeruns annually.” Still, we’ve seen numerous prospects turn into busts, so it’s important to notice some places where Stanton could still refine his game before we compare him to any established player.

Strikeouts are a huge problem for Stanton, who has fanned 153 times in 502 at-bats altogether this season (30.5 percent rate). He’s already struck-out eight times in his 23 at-bats in the AFL. Since his BABIP isn’t all that high, even compared to his short minor league career, the strikeouts are definitely a key reason for his low average. Mark Reynolds led the league with a 38.6 percent K-rate. If Stanton were in the majors, he’d rank 6th in the league, tied with Jason Bay. Swinging and missing seems to be a problem that has plagued the slugger throughout his career, as he had a 33 percent rate last season as well. It’s obviously a flaw that the Marlins would love to see rectified before they let him face the Johan Santana’s and Cliff Lee’s of the NL East.

From the looks of Stanton’s rates, it seems as if he’s an all-or-nothing hitter. He had 62 walks all season (12.3 percent), which would place him in the middle of the major league ranks. While that may not seem too bad, we should all realize the majority of Stanton’s walks have to be because opponents pitch away from him. The run-producing ability he has certainly is well-above average, and I’m sure opposing teams would rather walk Stanton in order to get to someone easier in the order. If Stanton doesn’t begin to show some patience, major league pitchers will feast on his anxiousness.

Even with those holes, Stanton has the makings of a legitimate major league power hitter. His 43.4 percent FB rate (career 44.4 percent) is sustainable. A slight drop off in the majors could be possible, but I wouldn’t expect a lot because he’s able to convert such a high rate of his flyballs into homeruns. Luke Scott and Adam LaRoche had the same FB% as Stanton, but I’d venture a guess that Stanton will be a much better homerun hitter than they are.

Even though the rightfielder played at only Double-A last season, it wouldn’t be a shocker to see the Marlins give him a shot in spring training next season. After all, Stanton’s current position is manned by Jeremy Hermida, whom the Marlins have been waiting to breakout for years now (his 13 HR and 47 RBI shouldn’t be much of a threat if Stanton lights it up in the AFL and spring training). If the Marlins are able to move Dan Uggla, there might even be more room in the outfield as Chris Coghlan would likely shift to second base.

As if I haven’t preached Stanton’s upside enough, MLB.com compares Stanton’s game to Dave Winfield. Maybe it’s a bit dubious at best, but it’s still nice to wonder, right? Keeper leaguers should be all over him and yearly leaguers should scoop him up, even if it’s for a spot on their bench.

What do you guys think? Will Stanton get his chance next season? What kind of player do you see him becoming?

To read the previous article, click here.

One comment

  1. Rotoprofessor says:

    Jimmy, I would disagree slightly in regards to yearly league owners grabbing him for a bench spot. If he earns a starting job, it’s a different story, but as a sleeper pick he is an extremely risky one. At his age there is no guarantee the Marlins give him an opportunity, so taking him just to stash him could be a mistake.

    As things get closer we’ll get a better idea of where his value on draft day may lie. For now, I would consider him only an option for long-term keeper league owners, however. What does everyone else think?

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