Mike Stanton Adds Patience To Power
No one questions Mike Stanton's
tools. But this year the 20-year-old Marlins slugger is showing off his skills as well.
Stanton's 80 raw power on the 20-to-80 scouting scale helps explain why he's hit a minor league-leading 12 home runs, including his 11th on Saturday night and 12th on Sunday. But his skill at making adjustments at the plate explains why he's now sporting a hard-to-believe .505 on-base percentage.
It's been as much a part of Stanton's minor league career as his tape-measure home runs. If he struggles in a first look at the league, he quickly figures out a way to adjust.
Last year, Stanton destroyed the Florida State League before a midseason promotion to the Double-A Southern League. But after getting to Jacksonville, he proved to be someone who could be pitched to, as pitchers took advantage of his aggressiveness to get him to chase pitches out of the zone. The power was still there, but he hit just .231 with 99 strikeouts and a .311 on-base percentage in 299 at-bats for the Suns.
Given an entire offseason to stew over his struggles, Stanton came in this season with a plan.
"He's one of the most-prepared guys I've been around and he's one of the smartest workers," Jacksonville manager Tim Leiper said. "He recognized what he needed to do. It's something he works on every day."
In his second look at Double-A pitching, Stanton has cut his strikeout rate and more than doubled his walk rate while hitting balls out of the park at a rate of one every 6.8 at bats. And he's doing it against pitchers who are not inclined to give him anything to hit.
"He gets everyone's best pitch on every pitch. Every pitch is like a two-strike pitch," Leiper said. "The thing that has been great is he's been able to take the ones out of the zone. Some of his best at-bats are walks. He'll see five bastard pitches and lay off of them."
Leiper isn't surprised to see Stanton take control of the Southern League in his second look. It's been a striking characteristic of Stanton's entire career. With low Class A Greensboro in 2008, Stanton was an easy mark for a smart pitcher during the first half of the season. But he made some tweaks, cut his strikeout rate and saw his on-base
percentage climb from .339 in the first half of the season to .425 in
the second half. He also blitzed the high Class A Florida State League before struggling in his first look at Double-A ball last summer.
"When the game becomes less random and he knows what they are trying to do to him, the odds swing in his favor," Leiper said. "Look at his history. Some people say he strikes out a lot, but a lot of those are early in the season. Once he learns the tendencies he doesn't strike out a lot."
At this point, you could understand if Southern League pitchers just waved the white flag. They've tried throwing fastballs, curveballs, changeups and sliders, but no matter what they throw Stanton is hitting it out of the park, and he's doing it to all fields.
The Marlins' big league outfield is struggling while Stanton is leading all of pro ball in home runs. Such a recipe has led to speculation that Florida may speed up Stanton's timetable to give the big league club a power boost. For now, the Marlins' front office is being patient, but it will be hard to keep him down if he puts up similar numbers over the next couple of months.
"Is there a timetable? You got me," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest told the Palm Beach Post recently. "If he keeps going like he's going, he's gonna create opportunity for himself. I hate to put a timetable on anything but he's doing great and hopefully he'll just keep getting better."