Mike Stanton of the Florida Marlins: The Other NL East Rookie Phenom
He has been hyped since he was a top draft pick for the National League East team that selected him. Sound familiar?
After dominating the Minor Leagues, he made his major League debut on June 8, 2010. Sound familiar?
He performed very well in his first game. Sound familiar?
However, his game was not shown on the MLB Network, but I still switched back and forth between four games last night. Being in the Southern New Jersey area, I get the New York Yankees, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies local cable stations.
Despite the prestige that Stephen Strasburg was getting about two hours south, Florida Marlins rookie Mike Stanton was getting three base knocks off of three separate and distinctly different pitchers.
Stanton beat out two infield hits, showing good speed for a big man, and smacked a rocket line drive off to right field against the tough Jose Contreras.
His final at-bat produced an infield single off of Phillies closer Brad Lidge. If not for Lidge getting his glove on the ball, the grounder would have been through the middle for a run scoring single, keeping the Marlins' late rally alive.
After humiliating the Double-A Southern League for the better part of the last two months, Stanton was brought up to the Majors, skipping Triple-A entirely.
At Double-A Huntsville in 2010, Stanton played in 52 games and hit 21 home runs with 52 RBI. He slashed .311 BA/.441 OBP/.726 SLG. Simply amazing numbers.
His Minor League numbers can be viewed here.
And what is most impressive is that he cut down his strikeout rates from a high of 33 percent in his 2007 rookie season (age 17), to 28 percent in Low-A (age 18), to 21 percent in High-A (age 19). When Stanton advanced to Double-A in the middle of last season, he did strike out in 29 percent of his plate appearances.
But this year at the same Double-A level Stanton has whiffed on only 22 percent of his PA.
At age 20, Stanton is cutting down on the worst thing a hitter can do—that is to strike out.
He was drafted 76th overall in 2007, a second-round pick out of Notre Dame HS in California. And for those who are asking, "How can so many players be picked ahead of Stanton?" please be aware that Stanton had a full ride scholarship offer to the University of Southern California (USC) for baseball and football.
Pete Carroll, then coach of the Trojans, viewed Stanton as his future starting tight end, even personally visiting him to persuade the youngster to attend school. So there were other factors involved, including another sport.
But he decided to sign with the Marlins for a little under $500,000. A bargain, you think?
Stanton hit terribly his first season in the pros, a brief session in Rookie and Short season league. In his short season stay in the New York Penn League as a 17-year-old, Stanton played mostly against top college players, and the results were indicative of the difference in ages.
I spoke to a current NY Penn League coach and asked him if he remembered Stanton. He did because not too many current-season-drafted high school kids get an opportunity to play there. It is mostly college kids, Latin players, and older high school kids usually drafted a year or two earlier.
The Latin players and high schoolers have had the advantage of at least a full year of instructional ball before they are fed to the wolves.
Stanton had no such prep time and struggled.
Stanton was overmatched, but kept his composure.
That is likely what the Marlins wanted to see. Does a player with such enormous talent and potential like Stanton have the temperament to withstand any failures in a game widely known for failures?
He did, and that is probably the reason he was allowed to skip Triple-A. He has the positive make-up that means if he struggles at the Major League level (and he will at some point this season) he will handle it like a professional.
That early test at age 17 allowed Stanton to get to the Majors earlier than he was "supposed to."
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