Warning: Those blinded by gaudy home run totals, inflated batting averages and the media hype machine may be strongly offended by this piece. Continue reading at your own risk.
A few hours after the publication of last week's piece, Mike Stanton went buck wild and blasted three home runs in Monday's game, prompting the fantasy community to go into an uncontrollable frenzy. For those of you who ran to your waiver wire to snatch him up for this season, I think you're going to be sorely disappointed. Don't get me wrong, Stanton is a top prospect and one whose power potential you should be very excited about. In my opinion though, he is also a flawed prospect. Let's examine.
What do all of these pitchers have in common?
Nick Hill: 15.88 ERA
Justin Cassel: 3.38 ERA
Dallas Buck: 6.29 ERA
Sean Watson: 18.47 ERA
Curtis Partch: 21.00 ERA
Richard Sullivan: 4.07 ERA
Jacob Thompson: 6.28 ERA
Thomas Palica: 6.57 ERA
Kudos to those of you who guessed they are Victims of Mike Stanton moon shots this season. If you said "Future Cy Young Award winners," you're a true maverick in the field and are seeing something I'm not. Stanton isn't hitting these home runs off elite pitchers, or even above-average ones. He needs to be promoted to Triple-A, and soon, so he can begin developing his batting eye against higher-level competition. I'd love to see him face-off against Pacific Coast League ERA leader Derek Holland (0.53 ERA) in a battle of pure power. Triple-A would be a nice natural progression for him, as I believe he'd be overmatched in the Majors.
Many will point to Jason Heyward's success thus far and believe Stanton could have a similar impact. As far as I'm concerned, Stanton is far below the level of a prospect like Jason Heyward, and it is a pretty large margin. Remember, Heyward posted a high walk rate (14.4 percent) and low strikeout rate (11.7 percent) in the same league in '09, not to mention a .352 average that was supported by a solid contact rate. His current Major League contact rate of 74.7 percent is great for a player his age, but he's still striking out a ton (32.1 percent) and has posted a decent .272 average. Imagine Mike Stanton, with his contact rate, in the Majors.
Although the walk rate has risen dramatically, how true of an indicator is it that he's improved? When you're going against mediocre pitchers who are doing everything they can to pitch around you, you're going to walk your fair share. Walk rates have improved up and down the Southern League, go see for yourself. Sure, players naturally progress. But in a league with horrible pitching, numbers become inflated.
One thing that is undeniable is Stanton's raw power, but his current .354 batting average is unsustainable, mainly due to his poor contact rate. In 2009, Stanton posted a contact rate of 67 percent in Double-A, which is well below average. Let's look at some major league players who sat around that level in 2009:
Mark Reynolds - 62.2 percent
Carlos Pena - 65.0
Russell Branyan - 65.7
Ryan Howard - 67.1
Jack Cust - 69.2
That is great company when it comes to pure power production, which should get Stanton fans and owners very excited. What do all these men have in common though? On the surface, they all strike out a ton, and have pedestrian career batting averages. Most troubling of all though, is they didn't actually break out in the Majors until relatively late in their careers. That leads me to believe that someone with the skill set of a Mike Stanton, still has a long road ahead when it comes to mastering Major League pitching.
While I think Mike Stanton is going to be an elite power hitter in the Majors, I have serious doubts that it will be during the 2010 season, or even the 2011 season for that matter. While he certainly has age on his side, there are holes in his swing that need to be addressed. Give me Desmond Jennings, an explosive lead-off man with a keen batting eye who will hit for a high average and steal a bunch of bases, for the remainder of 2010. Obviously, you can draw your own conclusions, but I'll pass when it comes to rostering Mike Stanton in a mixed league this year.