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How good can Giancarlo Stanton be?

Mar 1, 2013, 9:30 PM EDT

Giancarlo Stanton AP

Despite a right knee injury that kept him out of 25 games between July and August, and a September strained oblique that cost him nine games, Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton still hit 37 home runs. While the Marlins began pawning off parts of their roster, sending Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers, Stanton became an offensive tour de force in the National League. His .608 slugging percentage paced the league and he hit his 90th career home run on September 11, becoming the first player to reach the 90-homer plateau before his 22nd birthday since Alex Rodriguez in 1998. You have to go all the way back to 1980, Atlanta’s Bob Horner, before you find another player who accomplished the feat.

Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projection system, featured at FanGraphs, has Stanton hitting 41 home runs with a .286 average, .367 on-base percentage, and .606 slugging percentage during the 2013 season. Only Joey Votto, by virtue of a significantly higher on-base percentage (.423) is expected to match Stanton offensively.

The Marlins, overall, are still expected to host one of baseball’s worst offenses regardless of Stanton’s presence in the lineup. As a result, the RBI’s may come in even fewer bunches, but Stanton still has the opportunity to stand out. 2012 saw no players cross the 1.000 OPS line (Miguel Cabrera just missed at .999) and 2011 saw only two (Jose Bautista and Cabrera), but with Stanton projected at .973, there is a very real possibility he joins the crowd.

Most impressively, though, Stanton is showing progress on defense and on the base paths. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes:

There are also signs of improvement in the field, as he is getting terrific jumps and showing range to make catches on balls hit into the gap.

[snip]

“He’s a special player,” manager Mike Redmond said. “He can throw. He can play defense. He hits. He hits for power. He does it all. He’s a five-tool guy.

Not exactly a speed demon, Stanton stole six bases in eight attempts last year and played average defense in right while displaying an incredibly strong arm. He has to be considered one of the five National Leaguers most likely to take home the MVP award when the season is over, along with Votto, Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, and Bryce Harper.

  1. historiophiliac - Mar 1, 2013 at 9:39 PM

    Miggy!

  2. brewcrewfan54 - Mar 1, 2013 at 9:44 PM

    Bryce Harper as an MVP favorite? While he is a talented player I don’t know that he deserves to be in the this kind of talk yet.

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:46 PM

      Have to agree – then again, this is the guy who made the All Star game with 8 HR’s and 25 RBI’s…..so why be objective now?

      • brewcrewfan54 - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:50 PM

        You make a lot of sense. I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  3. chill1184 - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:06 PM

    He’s going to be good for years to come and the fact he’s only 23 shows that he has plenty of time to improve.

  4. Jason Lukehart - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    I’d consider Stanton a top five candidate for being the best player in the league, but given how so many MVP still think, and how bad the Marlins are likely to be, I’m hard pressed to think of him as a top five candidate to actually win the award.

    • chill1184 - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:19 PM

      If anything that helps his case. Putting up good numbers on a bad teams shows how valuable a player can be.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:21 PM

        Yeah, because the electorate has historically gone for that argument…

        Best chance of Stanton being MVP is a trade.

      • chill1184 - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:27 PM

        @Kevin S

        Well it helped Dickey get the Cy Young despite the obvious hatred the media has for the Mets and that the team was poor offensively.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:28 PM

        Yeah the MVP award has basically become an award that only guys on winning teams get to win. Its pretty ridiculous. If the Marlins only win 60 games this year without Stanton it probably be like 40. That’s pretty MVP to me.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:31 PM

        For some reason the writer’s have figured out that the best pitcher in the league doesn’t have to be on the best team. For some reason they haven’t come to terms with that when it comes to MVP.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:31 PM

        Except it seem like a lot of people confuse most valuable with best.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:38 PM

        I don’t think it’s obvious at all that it helped Dickey. Winning the so-called pitcher’s Triple Crown, his incredible personal narrative, and possible voter fatigue with Clayton Kershaw are all just as likely to have contributed to his winning. Further, voters have typically interpreted the CYA as the “Most Outstanding Pitcher” sort of award, not having the word “Valuable” in the title to parse, and posting high win totals on bad teams (especially with bad offenses) has always gone over well since it has given writers license to argue that the pitcher deserves fuller credit for those wins. None of this has translated into MVP voting, where voters have almost required a playoff appearance to win, unless the disparity between a guy on a non-contender and the field is enormous. The irony of those demanding Matt Kemp get Ryan Braun’s 2011 NL MVP after it leaked that he tested positive is that Kemp should have won it in the first place, given that he had the better season. Braun took home the trophy by virtue of having “led” his team to the playoffs.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:41 PM

        MVP is the best player award to me. Always has been, always will be.

      • paperlions - Mar 2, 2013 at 10:13 AM

        1) There is no way Stanton is worth 20 wins.

        2) Of course the best player is the most valuable. Otherwise, you are giving a player credit for his team mates. As an example, in 2011 if voters preferred Braun over Kemp because the Brewers made the Playoffs and the Dodgers did not, they are giving Braun credit for having better team mates. If one chooses to use the “they wouldn’t have made the playoffs without Braun” argument, you could say the same thing about many of his team mates…as the efforts Fielder, Hart, Weeks, Greinke, Gallardo, etc. were all required to make the playoffs.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 2, 2013 at 11:28 AM

        How about a little perspective there? They don’t have to single-handedly get the team into the playoffs to be the most valuable. Hell, they could just be the straw that tips the scale — b/c they did it. Do you think the playoff & WS MVP’s are always the best players? They are the ones who make the difference when the team needs it. You can be a really great player, but if you don’t come through when needed, you are not more valuable than someone who does. And please do not misinterpret what I’m saying to be a bunch of clutch bs.

  5. lroc20 - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:44 PM

    Bryce harper? Pulling the trigger a little quick

  6. tuberippin - Mar 1, 2013 at 11:11 PM

    Top 5 NL MVP candidates coming into 2013:

    * Joey Votto
    * Buster Posey
    * Ryan Braun Matt Kemp
    * Giancarlo Stanton
    * Bryce Harper Andrew McCutchen

    If we’re going to debate a great player on one of the league’s worst teams as a potential MVP candidate, shouldn’t we also include a great player from a consistently bad but presently not awful team in the discussion?

    I also highly doubt that Braun would be voted for MVP after the latest news involving him.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Mar 1, 2013 at 11:25 PM

      Instead of crossing Braun’s name off you should just add Kemp’s name to the list. I know the writers like to play god with their award and hall of fame votes but he still finished 2nd last year after the first allegations. If he plays well again this year he’ll still be right there.

  7. Old Gator - Mar 2, 2013 at 12:32 AM

    I’m not convinced that the Iron Giant is going to have a great year, at least not in obvious, productive statistical terms, He’s going to be pitched around the way chipmunks avoid a sleeping housecat. However, I think he’s going to have a terrific growth year learning to lay off bad pitches and make adjustments as a hitter that will be hugely helpful when he plays for a team that offers him some protection in the lineup. If he’s really learned to feast on mistakes, he might put up very impressive numbers – but I think the big guy is gonna have a tough time at the plate because he’ll be swinging at a vacuum half the time.

    • paperlions - Mar 2, 2013 at 10:17 AM

      Yep, if he is willing to be patient, he could easily lead the league in walks….of course, if the Marlins are getting blown out a lot, pitching to him won’t hurt.

  8. bigdinla - Mar 2, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    Stanton’s biggest issue will be teams not pitching to him. Why let the only player on the Marlins beat you? Just throw him junk and get the other 8 jags out.

    • anxovies - Mar 2, 2013 at 12:30 PM

      Like just about everybody I don’t follow the Marlins and I wonder who is going to hit in front of him and behind him? I think you are correct that he is probably not going to get any pitches to hit. He may lead the league in BB but unless he can learn to hit balls two feet out of the strike zone he is probably not going to hit 41 HR this year.

      • Old Gator - Mar 2, 2013 at 2:53 PM

        According to the early musings of Mike Redmond, Pierre and Polanco will bat ahead of him and in all likelihood Ruggiano will bat behind him. Ruggiano proved himself a solid hitter last year but he’s going to have to have a monster April and May before he convinces anyone to pitch to the Iron Giant.

  9. paul621 - Mar 2, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    Really? Now we’re having [i]preseason[/i] debates about who deserves to be on the list of [i]possible[/i] MVPs? Bring on the games, stat!

    • paul621 - Mar 2, 2013 at 10:08 AM

      All hail my mighty html skills, too.

  10. jimmymarlinsfan - Mar 2, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    Marlins win 75 games, Stanton hits 40 and drives in 100 even.

  11. jwbiii - Mar 2, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    Bill James did a study on protection as it applied to Dale Murphy and Bob Horner in the mid ’80s. Horner was a really good hitter as a young player, ahead of Aaron’s HR pace, and shows up on Stanton’s most similar through age 23 list. Murphy, of course, won 2 MVPs while playing for mostly mediocre Braves teams. Stanton and Murphy are very similar hitters. Both hit for decent averages but strike out too much to threaten for a batting title. Both hit for excellent power. Murphy hit more HRs in his peak seasons than Stanton has to date, but Stanton presumably hasn’t reached his peak and Murphy played half his games in the Fulton County Launching Pad. Both have shown good patience, with BB rates of about 10%.

    Without Horner batting behind him, Murphy hit slightly better better and drew more walks. This amounted to about 20 per season prorated out. This cost him a about home run and a few RBIs per season. The Braves’ not-Horner options were hitters like Chris Chambliss, Terry Harper, Claudell Washington, and a past his expiration date Ted Simmons, who weren’t great but were probably superior to the whatever dreck will follow Stanton. Anyway, expect his rate stats to stay about the same and his counting stats to go down a bit because he’ll draw more walks. Or maybe expect everything to go up because we expect 22 year olds to get better.

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