Mike Stanton’s Encore

Buster Posey and Jason Heyward garnered most of the attention among the NL rookie crop last season and rightfully so, but Mike Stanton of the Marlins was damn impressive in his own right. His 396 plate appearance debut featured a studly .248 ISO (15th highest among the 238 batters with at least 350 PA) and 22 homers, numbers that are pretty historic. The only other players with an ISO that high in that many plate appearances in their age 20 season: Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Alex Rodriguez, Bob Horner, and Frank Robinson. What does that mean for Stanton in 2011, specifically fantasy-wise?

There’s no better place to start than with the projections, so here they are…

Bill James: 591 PA, .268 AVG, 85 R, 38 HR, 104 RBI, 5 SB

Fans: 649 PA, .263 AVG, 90 R, 36 HR, 106 RBI, 7 SB

ZiPS: 666 PA, .246 AVG, 79 R, 36 HR, 98 RBI, 5 SB

Those are some pretty hefty projections, especially when you consider that just nine players in history have received 500+ PA and hit 30+ homers at age 21 (Horner is the only one from the list above to pull off the trick). Here’s another thing: zero players have done it while striking out in at least 30% of their at-bats, something Stanton did with the Fish last year (34.3%) and in Double-A (31.0%) in parts of the last two seasons (he skipped over Triple-A). In fact, just three players (Adam Dunn, Bobby Bonds, and Pete Incaviglia) have hit 30+ homers with 30%+ strikeouts before their age 25 season. If Stanton meets the projections next summer, he’ll be in some rarefied air.

Strike three has always been Stanton’s bane, and that’s okay. The whiffs won’t directly impact your fantasy team (unless you have some unconventional scoring or have the pitcher facing him on your roster), and his power is best defined as stupid good. The spacious ballpark in Florida isn’t much of a deterrent for him, and Stanton will run into enough mistake pitches to go deep what feels like a minimum of 25 times next season if he stays healthy. The AVG probably won’t be there, at least not right away, so .260 seems to be the upper bound of reasonable expectations. The Marlins still have a fine lineup even without Dan Uggla, so the RBI and run scoring opportunities will be there for Stanton.

It’s very difficult to get an idea of what Stanton will do next year because he’s so unique. That young with that much power and those kinds of strikeouts issues … it’s just not something you see every day. I’ve seen him referred to a right-handed Dunn, but Dunn was in A-ball at Stanton’s age. Would it be completely surprising if he hit 40 homers in 2011? Nah, though I don’t think anyone is counting on it. Would it be a total surprise if he hit below the Mendoza line and wound up back in Triple-A with a 40%+ strikeout rate? No, not really. The range of possibilities is seemingly infinite.

Most mock drafts I’ve seen have Stanton going in the 7th or 8th round, but I’m very intrigued. I’d much rather roll the dice on his ridiculous upside than hope Delmon Young or Corey Hart can keep it up, or see if Jacoby Ellsbury is healthy and effective.

Click here to submit your fan projection for Stanton.

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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.

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Stanton’s K% by month last year is relevant to this discussion:

June: PA=81 K%=41.9
July: PA=96 K%=34.9
August: PA=100 K%=31.1
Sept/Oct: PA=119 K%=31.2

The decline in K% with increasing experience is a good sign and if it continues to drop we might be in for a huge age 21 season. Even if his K rate remains around 31-32% these splits at least provide some hope that a full season K% approaching 40 is unlikely.