Apr 26, 2010, 6:30 PM EDT
Jason Heyward casts a pretty massive shadow, but the NL East is home to three more terrific right field prospects in Philadelphia’s Domonic Brown, New York’s Fernando Martinez and Florida’s Mike Stanton. Stanton may even have a chance to become the best of the bunch.
Heresy? Perhaps. I’d certainly take Heyward, but Stanton’s incredible strength gives him similar upside. The 20-year-old former second-round pick hit two homers Sunday and three on Monday, giving him nine in 65 at-bats for Double-A Jacksonville this season.
But everyone knows about Stanton’s power. Far more encouraging is the progress he’s displayed elsewhere so far this season. Stanton started off last year at .294/.390/.578 in 50 games in the Florida State League, only to fall to .231/.311/.455 in 79 games after a promotion to Jacksonville. He finished with a 144/59 K/BB ratio in 479 at-bats.
This year, Stanton is both making more contact and showing increased patience. He’s already walked 17 times in his 17 games. He’s struck out 18 times, but that’s still an improvement over his usual pace. Surely part of the reason for the spike in his walk rate is that he’s getting worked very carefully — he’s the only real power threat in Jacksonville’s lineup — but he’s reacting very well to it.
I’ve long been pretty skeptical that Stanton would develop into more than a low-OBP slugger in the majors. Sure, I figured he’d have some 30-40 homer seasons, but that’d he’d be far from a superstar in the process.
However, if Stanton can keep making adjustments, then the sky is the limit. We still need to see how he handles quality breaking balls from more experienced pitchers, but that he’s already doing a better job of waiting for his pitch is a very good sign. Maybe he won’t be a legitimate .300 hitter, but it’s possible he could be Ryan Howard with a plus glove in right field, making him extremely valuable.
At this rate, it may not be much longer before everyone gets a first-hand look. The Marlins have plenty of financial incentive to keep Stanton on the farm until the Super-Two threshold passes late next month, but if he’s still tearing the cover off the ball at that time, he’ll have to get a shot. Cody Ross isn’t a long-term piece of the puzzle in Florida, and the Marlins will have the option of sending Chris Coghlan back to Triple-A if he continues to struggle.
The Marlins promoted Miguel Cabrera right from Double-A to the majors in June 2003. Something very similar could happen this year.
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