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May 30, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Stanton Countdown

by Michael Jong

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With the recent call-up of Buster Posey and the imminent arrival pitching prospect Stephen Strasburg, all coinciding nicely with the June MLB draft as well, prospect fever is at its highest pitch. Teams with big needs at the big-league level are considering which players to bring up once players stay down long enough to avoid future Super-Two status. One of those teams is the Florida Marlins, and one of those highly touted propsects is Michael Stanton.

Stanton, originally drafted in 2007 in the second round by the Marlins, has evolved from a raw player to a powerhouse prospect in just two short seasons. After initially struggling in his professional debut, he rocked 39 HR in low-A ball in 2008 and followed that up with 28 combined home runs in High-A and Double-A, all before his 20th birthday. The initial struggles in Double-A in 2009 have disappeared in 2010, as Stanton is hitting .307/.442/.711 and leading the minors with 18 HR. According to BP's Davenport Translations, Stanton's line translates to a major league equivalent .269/.352/.589, good for a .306 TAv that would tie him for 39th in the majors this season.

Stanton's line has been impressive enough, especially for a 20-year old, to garner attention for a call-up. However, unlike the equally-hyped Jason Heyward, whose minor league track record was spotless, Stanton does have a major concern. For his career, Stanton has struck out in 27.1% of his PA, very similar to his DT line for 2010 (27.0%). This season, he has shown increased patience at the plate, drawing 31 unintentional walks in 200 PA; prior to 2010, he had walked in just under 10% of his PA. However, while some of that may be a result of an improved eye, a good deal of it may also be due to "intentional" unintentional walks by pitchers afraid to pitch to Stanton. Rest assured, major league pitchers will be less hesitant to throw strikes Stanton's way.

If and when Stanton is brought up, he will start, meaning either Cameron Maybin (.227 TAv) or Chris Coghlan (.203) will return to Triple-A. Maybin is the more likely to be demoted, as his struggles also involve the strikeout but do not come with Stanton's power potential. Stanton will slide into right field, with Cody Ross moving to center. In right, Stanton will have to put up better than a league average bat to compete with fellow corner outfielders fantasy-wise, but over the last three years, players with decent power who have struck out over 27% of the time have been barely above average as a group, PECOTA pegs Stanton for an optimistic .239/.321/.500 slash line, good for a .254 TAv that would be acceptable for Marlins standards, but not for fantasy owners. Home runs are Stanton's specialty, and it is likely that his power tool will translate to the majors even this season; PECOTA has Stanton hitting a very believable 14 homers in 255 PA. Do not expect much help elsewhere, however. Stanton's AVG will be low with just an average BABIP and his high strikeout totals, and his R/RBI will be deflated a bit batting at the bottom of the Marlins order.

Currently Stanton is owned in just 3% of ESPN mixed leagues. He has been on Hot Spot's Value Picks portfolio for a few weeks now, but should still be available even in deeper leagues. For NL-only leagues, he is a good option because of playing time and the off chance that his strikeouts continue to stay in the 23% range and he bats .250 to go with his lofty power.

Michael Jong is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Michael's other articles. You can contact Michael by clicking here

13 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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hyprvypr

I think a very similar showing to Adam Dunn's introductory year is in order here. A decent average, some walks and a .500 to .550+ slugging.

May 30, 2010 15:38 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

hyprvypr,

Comparing their minor league numbers, Dunn appears to have been a more polished hitter out of the minors. Dunn did not strike out in more than 20% of his PA in any season or at any level in the minors. He also was walking at a high rate (minor league career 14.7%) from the beginning of his career. Stanton has walked 10% of the time in his career, and his strikeout rate in the minors is at Dunn's major league level.

I think Stanton will fair a lot worse than Dunn did; it seems Dunn was pretty much ready to go, though the age comparison is very apt (Dunn arrived at age 21).

May 30, 2010 16:10 PM
 
cbirkemeier
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"PECOTA has Stanton hitting a very believable 14 homers in 255 PA."

You're not the first writer to make that mistake, but that is not what PECOTA projected. That's the PECOTA projection given the PT assigned to him by Clay Davenport. It's frustrating that BP writers are not required to understand what's on the Player Cards before using the information in their posts.

PECOTA has a weighted mean forecast of 28 HR in 516 PA. His 10th and 90th percentiles have 19 and 39 HR in 478 and 599 PA, respectively.

May 30, 2010 18:01 PM
rating: -5
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

birkem3,

Yes, I was aware of that, but I did not feel it was necessary to explain that it was based on Clay's PT projections (and team-based adjustments as well) AND PECOTA's base projections (as per its percentiles and weighted mean). I apologize for the lack of clarity on that issue, but I do not believe it significantly changes the point of the quoted line. Playing time is a subjective guess, but PECOTA should give you the appropriate rate stats (along with accounting for things like potential improved play with more playing time).

May 30, 2010 18:23 PM
 
jake726

Is a PECOTA forecast really the best tool for projecting a mid-season call-up who has exceeded expectations with his minor league production to date? With a big leaguer, we would assume that the production shift is a fluke unless we had very good reason to believe otherwise. But, with a 20 year old prospect, we generally assume half-season trends are meaningful (although still in need of regression). Stanton's stellar first two months in AA are almost certainly better than PECOTA foresaw making his projection a bit outdated. I fully understand the argument for defaulting to projections to determine expected future performance for an established major league player. For a 20-year old prospect in AA, not so much. If PECOTA were re-run, I can almost guarantee you that it would give us a better projection for Stanton than it did 3 months ago.

May 31, 2010 13:24 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

jake726,

I can tell you that Clay is going to re-run PECOTA with stats through May and we will see adjusted projections in the PECOTA cards soon. I hesitate to say that we should "toss out" previous year's data because of a perceived "breakout," especially in two months time. Rather, I think systems like PECOTA and other projections weigh previous seasons appropriately, even in such cases. There's always a chance that this was simply a lucky streak rather than a step up talent wise.

Jun 01, 2010 10:47 AM
 
jake726

I was not suggesting that we ignore or "toss out" old data. His first 2 full seasons clearly impact our projections of him. But, we also expect improvement out of prospects as they accumulate more experience and as they age. Stanton's improved walk rate, past power, and .324 BABIP all argue that his performance this year is indicative of continued improvement in his skills rather than mere luck. Given that this season is already around 15% of the total data we have on Stanton, using a pre-season projection actually "tosses out" the new data we have, which is clearly significant.

I am very happy to hear that we are getting mid-season PECOTA updates this year. But, I think your faith in PECOTA's ability to adjust for and weigh data that doesn't exist at the time of its last being run is misguided. I suppose we will see the impact that the last 2 months have on Stanton's projection in short order, but until then I will continue to caution against using pre-season projections to estimate future performances for prospects who are having breakout years. I expect PECOTA to back me up with a substantial boost to Stanton's projected performance when it is updated.

Jun 01, 2010 14:10 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

jake726,

I believe I may have misunderstood you. Of course, if we have new data, the projection that includes that data will best represent a player, whether it is a player in the midst of breaking out or otherwise. I agree, we will see what PECOTA has in store of Stanton. My personal opinion is that even the preseason projection is a little optimistic. We'll get a chance to see when he comes up.

Jun 01, 2010 15:01 PM
 
leites

If the plan is to play Stanton in RF, why did they recently shift him to playing LF?

Jun 01, 2010 06:13 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

leites,

I don't think there's any reason to read into that. Coghlan will not be the player that is replaced, as he has been essentially starting full-time for about two weeks now. My guess is that they'd like to get him some reps in left to make sure he can remain flexible on defense. He is athletic enough to be a plus defender in the outfield, so he should succeed in either corner.

Jun 01, 2010 08:09 AM
 
leites

Just noticed the LF experiment only lasted a few games -- he's been back in RF for the last five.

Jun 02, 2010 09:15 AM
rating: 0
 
Austin (Raleigh)

If both Coghlan and Maybin are struggling offensively, wouldnt it make sense to replace Coghlan as Maybin is the superior defender?

Jun 01, 2010 09:36 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

Austin,

Maybin may be the superior defender, but he has looked really bad in center field so far this season, costing the Marlins runs on numerous bad routes and poor judgment calls on batted balls. Coghlan is acclimating himself to left field decently and has not looked as bad as last season.

Perhaps the more pertinent reason for the demotion/benching of Maybin rather than Coghlan is a developmental issue. Coghlan's plate discipline has suffered a bit this season, but he has a minor league track record that bodes far better. Maybin, on the other hand, has struggled with strikeouts throughout his career, and the Marlins may feel he needs to improve his approach before he can play in the majors.

Ultimately, it won't matter what's best for the team as much as what the team will do, and given the way the club has handled Maybin so far this season, all signs indicate that he will be the odd man out.

Jun 01, 2010 10:45 AM
 
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