Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, shiny new name and everything (folks used to call him "Mike," which apparently was too mainstream), appeared to be on the cusp of super-stardom.
And then 2013 happened.
The Marlins bottomed out and so did Stanton. After cracking a career-best 37 homers in 2012, Stanton finished last season with just 24 blasts, his lowest total since his rookie year in 2010.
It's like Stanton was driving toward greatness but he got off on the wrong exit. Either that or Chris Christie closed the bridge and caused a 52-car pileup.
It's easy to blame this thing on the Marlins. When some dude named Adeiny Hechavarria is leading your team in hits, it's natural to wonder if you actually spent the whole year in Triple-A and just didn't realize it.
Though the 2012 version of Marlins baseball was just as humiliating as the 2013 edition, at least Stanton had some level of protection in the lineup. A- listers like Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and Carlos Lee were still floating around South Florida then, even if they didn't want to be there.
Sure, lineup protection helps. But when you're swinging at the bad pitches they're throwing to you, you're part of the problem.
Stanton wasn't the most patient fellow last season. He swung at almost 31 percent of pitches outside the strike zone in 2013. Compare that to the zen- like approach of Joey Votto, who chased only 20 percent of pitches out of the zone. Jose Bautista and Mike Trout weren't quite as disciplined as Votto, but they were still well below the 25 percent threshold.
Giancarlo isn't the first player to swing at too many bad pitches and he won't be the last. Alfonso Soriano has made a career out of it (swings at 40.8 percent of pitches out of the zone).
But if you're not making contact, well that's when the strikeouts begin to pile up. Stanton's lousy 67.9 percent contact rate in 2013 was fifth-worst among 140 qualified hitters.
That's nothing new. Even when Stanton hit .290 in 2012, he still struck out in nearly 32 percent of his at bats. That strikeout rate increased to 33 percent a year later.
Stanton's ceiling remains a mystery, mostly because we still haven't seen what he can do over a full season. His 2013 campaign was cut short by a hamstring issue while mid-season knee surgery cost Stanton a month of games a year earlier. Only time will tell if those injuries were simply bad luck or if Stanton really is this fragile.
Had Stanton logged 550 at bats in 2012, about average for an everyday player in today's MLB, he would have been on pace for 45 HR and 105 RBI. That's first-round material.
A year later, those projections slipped to 31 HR and 80 RBI. That's firmly in Nelson Cruz territory. Cruz's average draft position this year is 123.
The red flags will always be there for Stanton, but remember he just turned 24. That's an age when most players are still finding their footing. The arrow doesn't usually point down on a player until he's at least in his mid to late 20s.
And everyone's entitled to a bad season, right? Evan Longoria had one in 2011 (.244 AVG in 133 games). Three years later, he's still one of the most coveted corner infielders in fantasy. Even Stanton's ex-teammate, Hanley Ramirez, forgot how to hit for a brief period in 2011 (.243 AVG in 338 at bats).
That doesn't mean fantasy owners shouldn't be at least a little worried. Ben Grieve flamed out pretty quickly after capturing Rookie of the Year honors in 1998. Eric Hinske and Chris Coghlan were also players that peaked early and were never heard from again.
But none of those guys had power like Stanton has. At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, Stanton could hit .200 the rest of his life and still scare people with his 40-homer potential.
Stanton is a risk, but probably one worth taking. If you think he'll hit .300 you're dreaming, but the home runs and the power will always be there.
For most fantasy owners, myself included, that's more than enough to pull the trigger on draft day.