Giancarlo Stanton is that mythical man, the one that can send balls flying into the orbit that draw oohs and aahs from the crowd. His power is prodigious. His smile is contagious. He is, in three words, fun to watch. No debate there. The debate centers around two main questions with the Marlins' slugger. (1) Can you maintain his MVP pace and (2) Can he be an elite fantasy player? I'll investigate in this Player Profile.
I got in a debate on Twitter Wednesday about Stanton (follow @BaseballGuys). The prevailing line of thought went something like this. (1) Stanton is a star. (2) Stanton is going to have a breakout season. (3) Stanton is a lock for 45 homers. (4) He's gonna be top-5 in the MVP vote. (5) He's got a strong chance to be a top-10 fantasy player this season. That was easily the majority view (the whole discussion started when someone asked if they should deal Stanton for Yasiel Puig AND Masahiro Tanaka. Of course I said do it immediately, huge win. Then the arguments started flying how I was wrong, that made no sense, why would I deal Stanton? etc. I find this humorous given how I spent the entire offseason trying to explain to people that they were over-drafting Puig. Guess folks have moved on from Puig to Stanton as their latest crush). Let's dig into Stanton.
Stanton is currently batting .295. He's not a .295 hitter. Nope, sorry. 'But Ray, he hit .290 in 2012.' Yes he did. However, he also failed to hit .263 in his other three season and owns a .267 career batting average. 'But Ray he's only 24, he's improving and there's no reason to think he can't hit .295.' There are a lot of reasons to think he can't.
(1) He's not a .295 hitter. Wait, I already said that.
(2) He strikeouts too much. His career rate strikeout percentage is 28.5 percent. The mark is 27.8 percent this season. That's a terrible number. Put another way, that's one K every 3.06 at-bats. If he bats 550 times in a season that would equate to 180 strikeouts.
Last season there were seven men who qualified for the batting title with a K-rate of 28.5 percent. Their batting averages? Try this on for size - .223, .259, .179, .219, .220, .233 and .286. The only man to hit .260 was Chris Davis. We'll get back to him in a minute. This doesn't speak to Stanton keeping his average up where it currently is. It can happen, but the line he's walking is perilously thin.
(3) Stanton's walk rate is 12.6 percent. That's one percent above his career mark, not a big deal either way. His 0.45 BB/K rate is just slightly better than average. His 69 percent contact rate is slightly below the league average. You don't hit .290 with a mark that low. It can happen, but the line he's walking is perilously thin.
(4) Though he owns a lofty .327 BABIP for his career he's currently well above that at .363. Odds are that number will regress moving forward. It can happen, but the line he's walking is perilously thin.
The totality of the evidence suggest that his batting average is going to regress. You may not want to face it because you think he could do it, but the data doesn't support that position at the moment.
What about the power? As I noted at the top, he bashes the ball as well as any man in the game, no doubt about that. Could he hit 50 homers? Sure. Is it likely? That's another question with a different answer, at least in my mind. Some notes.
'Stanton owns a 40 percent fly ball rate for his career and the mark is slightly below 39 percent since the start of last season. That's only about 4-5 above the leave average by the way. Since he isn't an extreme fly ball hitter he needs to have a strong HR/F ratio to maintain lofty homer totals. He's got that in spades. For his career that mark is 25.1 percent. That's HOF levels right there. In three of his four previous seasons the number has been under his career rate though he did post a 28.9 percent mark in 2012. It's therefore conceivable that he will be able to maintain his current 28.6 percent mark. Just know that it's a massive number that could side back a tad.
Though he's never scored 80 runs in a season, terrible considering that he has seasons of 34 and 37 homers under his belt, it's not really his fault. The past three years his OBP has been in the .356-.365 range, so he gets on base. This year he has 25 runs in 34 games, likely an unsustainable rate but that doesn't mean he shouldn't fly past 80 runs for the first time with a chance to push triple-digits.
A solid athlete, Stanton could possibly steal 10 bases in a season. Of course, he's never stolen seven in a season and has a total of four over his last 150 games. Not likely to get much value from him there.
PINK ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
The last two seasons Giancarlo Stanton has failed to reach 125 games played as he's appeared in 123 and 116 games. Is that a fluke or a sign of things to come? The truth is no one, not even I, know the answer to that. He might rip of 8-straight years of 150 games played starting in 2014. However, this is what we know at the moment. After removing his rookie season of 100 games (he was called up after the season began), we're left with a player who has averaged 130 games played in his three full big league seasons. That's what history shows us. Therefore, it's dubious to take the position that he's a lock to put up the huge numbers that folks seem to “know” he will produce this season since he's yet to prove he can play a full season of games consistently, let alone sustain his currently elite pace. His biggest goal should be proving he can stay on the field.
THE FANTASY OUTLOOK
'Ray, Stanton is a lock to be a top-10 fantasy player this season.' I heard that on Twitter. I also heard that he could be a top-5 player too. Simply put this is a misunderstanding of how we record value in the fantasy game. As I pointed out Wednesday it's nearly impossible to be a top-10 fantasy performer if you hit .275 with seven steals (remember before you go poo-pooing that, Stanton is a career .267 hitter who has never stolen seven bases in a season). Therefore the only way that Stanton ends up being a top-10 performer is if he has a Chris Davis-like season. Recall that Davis hit .286 with 53 homers, 138 RBIs and 103 runs scored last season. That's a top-10 fantasy season. However, it's rare.
Since 2006 the feat of 53 homers and 138 RBIs has been accomplished by Davis, a roided out Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Howard. That's it. If we go back to the 1970 season, nearly 45 years, only seven men have done it (led by roided up Sammy Sosa who did it three times). It rarely happens. Hard to bank on a guy getting there who has averaged 130 games played in his three big league seasons, isn't it?
Can Stanton lead the league in homers? Unquestionably the answer is yes.
Can Stanton lead baseball in RBIs? Yes.
Can he hit .295? There's no chance.
Can he be a top-10 fantasy player? Possible, but the odds are long.
Be careful not to overestimate a hot start, even for a player as talented as Stanton. It's a long season.
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