Sky's The Limit For Stanton

After A Torrid 2010, What Will Mike Stanton Do For An Encore?

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What will he do for an encore?

That's what Marlins fans were likely daydreaming about this winter when thoughts turned to outfielder Mike Stanton.

After all, he had an incredible 2010 season, hitting 21 home runs over 53 games for Double-A Jacksonville before getting called up and hitting 22 in 100 games in the big leagues—one more than teammate Hanley Ramirez. His 43 combined home runs were the second-most in pro ball, behind only Toronto's Jose Bautista.

"I was impressed in a very, very good way, but I wasn't surprised," Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "Because I had him in 2008 in A-ball, so I knew what kind of makeup he has and, with his physical abilities, we all know why the ceiling is so high and what he's capable of doing."

Some fans have the young slugger penciled in for 40 home runs, something that hasn't happened for the Marlins since Gary Sheffield did it back in 1996. Fans have good reason to be giddy with excitement.

"I remember when I first started in this complex with the Expos and the Cardinals were here, (Mark) McGwire and (Vladimir) Guerrero used to hit 'em onto the roof, just like Mike," Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest said. "So, there's been a lot of great power hitters, but his power is as good as I've seen in the game in like 22 years. He's still a young guy and still has some learning to do, but his raw physical tools are off the charts."

Since the Integration Era began in 1947, just 27 other players have hit as many home runs as Stanton in their first 100 big league games. It's an interesting mix. . .

PLAYERS WITH 22+ HR OVER FIRST 100 G (1947-2010)

Mark McGwire 37 23 583
Ryan Braun* 30 23 128
Bob Horner 27 21 218
Adam Dunn* 27 22 354
Walt Dropo 25 27 152
Frank Robinson 25 20 586
Kevin Maas 25 26 65
Jose Cruz 25 23 204
Bob Allison 24 25 256
Cory Snyder 24 23 149
Albert Pujols* 24 21 408
Willie McCovey 23 22 521
Tony Conigliaro 23 19 166
Dave Hostetler 23 26 37
Matt Nokes 23 23 136
Jose Canseco 23 21 462
Richie Sexson 23 24 306
Chris Duncan* 23 25 55
Norm Zauchin 22 25 50
Dick Stuart 22 26 228
Bill Schroeder 22 26 152
Darryl Strawberry 22 21 335
Russell Branyan* 22 25 189
Jay Gibbons* 22 25 126
Ryan Howard* 22 25 253
Chris Davis* 22 23 39
Garrett Jones* 22 28 44
Mike Stanton* 22 20 22
* = active / Source:

But Stanton wants to be more than just a slugger.

"If you focus on one thing, maybe something else falls out of your sight," Stanton said. "So, you've got to work on everything as one and if you need something a little more, you work on everything to its full capability and maybe that one a little more. Even if you have a bad day at the plate, you can save a run or two on defense, so you need all of it."

In the big leagues last year, Stanton stole five bases—more than he ever stole in any minor league season—and played solid defense in right field.

"Everybody notices his power, because it's obvious," Rodriguez said. "But the thing that really impresses me from Michael is his mental toughness. He's tough and he wants to get better. He doesn't want to waste any day. Any time he has a chance, he wants to improve in every aspect of the game."

One thing Stanton will have to work on is cutting down his strikeouts. It's not a new problem for Stanton, who worked hard to improve upon that throughout the minor leagues. He struck out in 28 percent of his plate appearances in his first full season in low Class A Greensboro in 2008, trimmed that number to 26 percent between high Class A Jupiter and Jacksonville in 2009 and then was down to 22 percent last year, back in Jacksonville.

In the big leagues last year, Stanton struck out in 31 percent of his plate appearances. He learned quickly that he'll have to make adjustments on the fly.

"There's no days off," Stanton said about life in the big leagues. "In the minors you might get away with having one or two legit pitchers facing you for the series and the rest have kind of been there for a while and are maybe on their last limb. Here, everyone's hungry, they're pitching to you to put food on their table, so there's no easy games, no time to kick back."

He is confident he will make the adjustments, he just needs time.

"I'm just trying to learn from everybody else," Stanton said. "You can only do so much. You only get four at-bats a game, so you've got to do everything possible to get better. You can't simulate a major league at-bat unless you're there, so my biggest thing was that I needed more at-bats to learn the strike zone a little bit better. A machine can simulate the speed of it, but it's not going to simulate the tempo and the arm angles and what not."

Stanton is excited to show what he can do over the course of a full major league season.

"I just want to continue to take what I learned last year and take it into the full season," Stanton said. "I'm filling a big slot this year, so there's big expectations. It's not any extra pressure, but I also have my own expectations. I'm just taking it in and handling the full season."

The Marlins have a young team, so the front office and the coaching staff are trying to keep the pressure off of Stanton's shoulders, even if he's already shown it's something he can handle.

"The big leagues are tough—facing tough pitching everyday and he handled some of the down times great," Beinfest said. "He just fought right though it and had good at-bats and was productive right off the bat, and that's very hard to do in the major leagues. I think a lot of that is because of his mental makeup and his maturity."

With the tools he has—including power that grades out as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale—the sky's the limit for Stanton.

"Last year, he came up trying to prove to everybody—and to himself—that he belongs here," Rodriguez said. "Now, this year, he knows that he belongs here. He's confident and he doesn't have to prove anything to anyone, except himself, and I think he's going to have a very strong year because of that."