Who is This Guy?
May 21, 2010

Since 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 as 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, Derrek 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 comparing him 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.