April 26, 2011: Stanton connects in Miami. The rising home run hitter is heating up.
Is the 21-year-old right fielder for the Florida Marlins ready to be an All-Star this season?
He’s ready—in his own mind, maybe, but let’s take a deeper look into the question.
The way he’s been sizzling, he could soon be drawing comparisons to big and bad batter Albert Pujols.
But is this a proper comparison? Of course not, but for you skeptics, I’ll set the argument out in detail. Keep your eyes moving across the screen and weigh in.
Among National League right fielders—Lance Berkman, Jason Heyward and Garrett Jones are having better seasons than Stanton so far. Berkman—Pujols’ teammate—is second in the league with 10 home runs. Alfonso Soriano leads the MLB with 11 at the time of this writing.
Fans, however, vote for the All-Star participants and Stanton is quite popular from the top levels of the organization to the most lackluster fan of the Marlins. I'm sure they know who Albert is.
Pujols won the NL Rookie of the Year honor in 2001—after setting a NL rookie record with 130 RBIs. With 37 blasts, he barely missed the NL rookie home run record (38).
Albert was also named to the 2001 All-Star Game and played four different positions that year (1B, 3B, LF and RF). The Cardinals tied for the NL Central division title.
The Marlins have the chance to overtake the Philadelphia Phillies for the NL East title, but unless Stanton has a supreme rest of the season, former star prospect shortstop Hanley Ramirez will probably get most of the accolades. Ramirez has done it for years for the Marlins.
One year ago, almost to the day, Stanton was still a prospect in the Marlins’ farm system, but he was the leading home run hitter in professional baseball—the Majors, or otherwise. With 14 home runs, he was batting .340 and posting a .840 slugging percentage—Pujols-like.
Bedazzling the baseball business, he was a large 20-year-old who had turned down a scholarship from USC to sign and slug with Florida.
Boy, are the Marlins glad.
On May 6, 2010, he etched his name in Minor League lore. Playing for Jacksonville—the largest city in Florida—he presented his awesome power in a Double-A game in Montgomery, Alabama. He hit one of the longest home runs several witness profess to ever seeing.
On May 4, 2011 in St. Louis, Stanton smashed off on another helpless baseball. This time, his home run broke a tie score and drove himself and Hanley Ramirez in. Ramirez had been involved in a jawing match with Cards’ pitcher Chris Carpenter, earlier in the game.
Stanton’s go-ahead home run was yet another ninth inning breakdown by the Cardinals’ relievers. Eduardo Sanchez was the one getting broken down in the latest round of musical closers being played out in St. Louis.
The night before giving up the game-winning home run, Sanchez threw a slider that power-packer Stanton whiffed at in the ninth to close-out and tie the powerhouse series 1-1. In the first game, Stanton had scorched a solo home run right next to Big Mac Land in Busch Stadium.
The area in the upper deck in left field is named after the batting coach Mark McGwire. He hit balls there with regularity as a player, and he probably still can as a coach in friendly pregame hitting contests with other power-hitting mighty St. Louis Cardinals.
Colby Rasmus, Lance Berkman, Matt Holiday and Albert Pujols provide plenty of competition for Big Mac. He interestingly went public to say he loves Stanton’s bat.
In a report by MLB.com, “Big Mac” provides proof: “Power hitters are born,” he said, referring to Stanton.
“I think he is just a born home run hitter.” McGwire was noted for his compact swing.
He went on to say making adjustments, understanding the strike zone and the pitcher is what it’s all about—once born sluggers make it to the Majors.
Stanton is adjusting in a major way. Through 26 games this season, he is batting .253 with five home runs and 13 RBIs after a slow start. These aren’t All-Star numbers, so he’s not ready for the Midsummer Classic.
He’ll need to continue to work on cutting down his strikeouts. He’s whiffed 28 times already—an over one per game average—and only has nine bases on balls.
He’s got the balls to stand in and face the best pitchers in the world, though. In only 359 at bats, he homered 22 times in his Major League debut season last year.
Albert Pujols had more strikeouts than walks in a season only once—his rookie year when he batted 590 times. He was fanned by opposing pitchers 93 times and walked 69.
Last year, Pujols had 103 walks in 587 at-bats—his third straight season surpassing 100. He only struck out 76 times. Posting a .312 average—17 points below his career batting average—Pujols was still magnificent.
The outstanding and currently sizzling Stanton, though, at present has a higher batting average than Albert (.233) and is only two home runs behind him.
The young Stanton is not, however, the next Albert Pujols. No one is.
Albert's career average—for one—is .329. He hit.359 in 2003 and .357 in 2008. He's never come close to hitting under .300. His lowest average was .312—last year. His lowest home run total was 32 in 2007.
Stanton could be the next Mark McGwire, though. He grew up watching McGwire—the former USC slugger—having been raised near Los Angeles. McGwire hit less for average and more for home runs, and Stanton appears to be on the same path.
I could, however, be wrong. I hope he becomes the next Albert Pujols.
I really just hope he follows a path much different from the one Big Mac and other players took during the steroid era—allegedly.
I'm alleged to have loved the beach, and I'm heading there to see a man about some waves. Check me out later, in the next edition of Increase the Peace.