Stanton brings mix of power, expectations
Slugger's success will depend on command of strike zone
PHILADELPHIA -- Raw power is hard to contain.
Mike Stanton flexed his might so regularly at Double-A Jacksonville that he has earned a big league callup at age 20. The slugger, who projects to start in right field, will make his MLB debut for the Marlins on Tuesday night against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
At 20 years and 212 days old, Stanton will be the second youngest player in Marlins' history to reach the big leagues. The only player to get there faster is Miguel Cabrera (20 years, 67 days).
Power pushed the former football player quickly through the Minor League ranks. He spoke loudly at Jacksonville, belting 21 home runs and driving in 52 runs in 52 games. The low-keyed native of Sherman Oaks, Calif., has also improved his hitting for average, as he hit .311 for the Suns.
"The main thing is he showed the desire to get to where he wanted to go," Jacksonville manager Tim Leiper said. "He has a desire to be great."
Few players, if any, have had more power at the Minor League level in recent years than Stanton. Stanton reminds some in the industry of Mark McGwire.
How quickly the 6-foot-5, 235-pound former football player enjoys big league success will depend on how well he commands the strike zone, said John Mallee, the Marlins' Minors hitting coordinator.
"Michael is a guy with power who is starting to develop into a hitter," Mallee said.
With such a big body, Stanton will have the challenge of "staying small." A key for him will be to not expand his strike zone, looking to be overly aggressive by chasing pitches. If he keeps a compact swing, watch out, because he has sensational bat speed.
Stanton is the Marlins' most touted homegrown prospect since Cabrera in 2003.
"Miguel back then had more of an inside-out swing, and he was a line-drive hitter, who went to the opposite field," Mallee said. "He was more of a right-center. He could command the strike zone more at that age."
Mindful of his age, the Marlins are tempering expectations for the young slugger. Manager Fredi Gonzalez has repeatedly said he is here to contribute, not be asked to carry the team.
Gonzalez added that Stanton may initially bat either seventh or perhaps second. How that plays out may hinge on where Hanley Ramirez bats.
In Sunday's 7-6 loss to the Mets, Ramirez led off for the first time since 2008. Although Stanton batted third at Jacksonville, it is doubtful Gonzalez would put the young slugger in a primary power spot right away.
If Ramirez bats first Tuesday at Philadelphia against right-hander Kyle Kendrick, then Stanton may wind up hitting sixth or seventh. But should Ramirez slide back to No. 3, then maybe Gonzalez would hit Stanton as high as second or as low as seventh.
It will be a matter of how Gonzalez feels the slugger fits into the lineup initially.
"That's going to be one of my biggest jobs. Not making this guy sound like he is Roy Hobbs," Gonzalez said. "Make him comfortable. Make him part of the team. It's going to be hard getting used to the big leagues as it is. One of my biggest challenges is to protect him."
Stanton is reaching the big leagues after 714 Minor League at-bats, which included 61 home runs. On average he hit a home run every 11.7 at-bats.
At age 19 last year, he opened at Class A Jupiter before making the leap to Double-A. In 79 games, he connected on 16 home runs while driving in 53, and his batting average was .231.
Leiper said the difference in seasons had more to do with experience than making an adjustment.
"Last year, he was 19, and he hadn't played as many games," the Suns manager said. "I think he just needs to play. The less random the game is for him the more success he will have."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.