Who is This Guy?
May 21, 2010
we are already conceding National League Rookie of the Year to Jason
Heyward, I didn't think it would be too troublesome to look at the
other really good 20-year old outfielder from the NL East, Mike
Stanton. How good can he be?
Well, let's start with what he's doing so far. He leads all
professional hitters with 15 home runs through the first quarter of the
season and at one point had posted an OPS in excess of 1.300.
That'd be Babe Ruth territory if he were doing it in the majors.
He struggled last year in his initial exposure to AA pitching, but just
he has done at every level he's made the necessary adjustments
within a couple months and is obviously very comfortable at that level
now. I expect that will probably happen when he
reaches the majors as well - probably low average and a lot of looking
silly at the plate and then by the end of the season he'll start
figuring things out. But what will his numbers look like?
I looked through a private database of all minor league players
covering the last 30 years, figuring I could find someone would have
duplicated his current
1.158 OPS at AA. Turns out I was wrong. Not Vlad Guerrero, Jay Bruce,
Lee, Cliff Floyd, Chipper Jones, Paul Konerko, Jim Thome, Ryan
Zimmerman... you get the idea. There were no AA comparables
within 100 points of his OPS. So the hitters we should be
to are the Hall of Fame talents like Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones,
Miguel Cabrera, Justin Upton,
Junior Griffey, etc... players who spent the majority of their year 20
season in the majors. And given the sad state of production from the
Marlins outfielders and the team's public aspiration for making the
playoffs, seems to be Stanton's likely fate as well. If he's not in the
majors in June, I will be very surprised.
But what should we expect once he gets here? The guy whose numbers and
scouting report seem the most similar are Adam Dunn's. Dunn was a year
older than Stanton at this stage of his career, but both guys were
regarded with having off the charts power and whose batting average
success in the minors probably would not hold up in the majors due to
the high strikeout rates. If that's the case, then Stanton could be
huge in the second half. In 140 AA at bats in Chattanooga, Dunn hit
.343 with 9 doubles and 12 homers, good for a .664 slugging percentage.
In addition, he walked 24 times, versus 31 Ks. After that, he was
promoted to AAA for 210 at bats in which he hit .329, 13 doubles, 20
homers (.676 slugging), 38 walks and 51 Ks. That left enough of the
season for a promotion to the majors where Dunn was still a force. His
debut was impressive: .267 average, .371 on base, .578 slugging with 18
doubles and 19 more homers. All totalled, he finished with 51 homers
over three levels.
Currently, Stanton is replicating Dunn's numbers in AA, with 10 doubles
and 15 homers in 137 at bats. The difference between the two is that
while Stanton's average lags behind Dunn's (.299 to .343), he's walked
more (34 to 24) but struck out a little more (42 to 31). So whose slash
line is better: Dunn's .343/.449/.664 or Stanton's .299/.443/.715? Long
term, Stanton's is probably the better one as he's performing this well
a year younger at the same level. If one were to reduce Stanton's
current line to an MLE for the remainder of the season - assuming he
was promoted to the majors tomorrow - we could expect something in the
neighborhood of a .233 average. 357 on base and, if he managed to get
400 major league at bats, 35 homers. Extra-ordinary, right? No way a
20-year old hits 35 bombs in the bigs, right? Probably not. But he did
hit 39 homers (a league record) as an 18-year old in A ball in a league
(the South Atlantic) whose alumni include Willie Stargell,
Ryan Howard, Vlad Guerrero, Carlos Delgado, Frank Robinson and Hank
Aaron. So the
notion of Stanton doing something in the power department that no has
done previously would not be unprecedented. Still, it's probably wisest
to temper expectations and be thankful when/if they are exceeded.