As a baseball fan, you have a pretty good idea who Giancarlo Stanton is. Or, if you’ve been backpacking through Central Asia for the last five months, you knew who Mike Stanton was. You know the Marlins slugger as one of the elite hitters in baseball, his rare “80″ power bat the product of a remarkable frame.
This knowledge might obscure some other realities, namely his age. Though he has 1300 career big league appearances and 75 home runs in the Show on his resume, he is still just 22-years old and won’t turn 23 until November.
There isn’t anything particularly special about being 22. Lots of barely-functioning half wits get to be 22 for an entire year while others simply choose to live the rest of their lives as if they will remain 22 forever. The exploits of Giancarlo Stanton relative to other 22-year olds are jarring enough before we consider how rare Stanton is among other professional baseball players.
Stanton underwent arthroscopic knee surgery just before the All Star break and, now freshly healed, is rehabbing his knee with the Jupiter Hammerheads, the Marlins High-A affiliate in the Florida State League. The FSL is a tough league but still sits far, far below the Majors.
Precious few climb the steep hills up from High-A to double-A, through the veteran-laden minefield of AAA to reach the Major leagues. On his initial pass through the minor leagues, Stanton spent 50 games playing for the Hammerheads, hitting 12 home runs and posting a .948 OPS in the notorious pitcher’s league before receiving promotion to Double-A.
That was back in 2009. Stanton returned to Jupiter in his first rehab outing yesterday and looked great, going 2-5 with a three-run homer. Whenever a big leaguer comes down to the low minors, a few customs or traditions are observed. Jayson Werth of the Washington Nationals paid the clubhouse dues for all his Potomac Nationals teammates while rehabbing his wrist injury there a few weeks ago. Multiple Potomac players Hugh Rist of the Potomac News & Messenger how much the minor leaguers appreciate the chance to have a Major Leaguer in their midst:
“Anytime you have a big leaguer in here, it’s always fun…Guys pick their brain. They are really open with us and it’s just kind of comfortable knowing that guys [in the big leagues] are like that.”
“It’s always fun to watch them. They all have different approaches and they are always in control and I think you can always take something from that,” Hague said. “You can see how easy they do things and play under control, so it’s helped me to let the game come to me and [not try to do too much].”
Pretty standard quotes from any podunk paper when a big leaguer comes calling. With Stanton, things are a little different. Sure, he makes a lot more money than the FSL players and he is one of the most valued commodities in baseball. He’s also younger than seventeen players on the current Jupiter Hammerheads roster. SEVENTEEN!
The average age of the Florida State League is 22.7 years old, basically the same age as Giancarlo Stanton. WHO PLAYS IN THE BIG LEAGUES EVERY DAY AND OH BY THE WAY MADE THE ALL STAR TEAM. Not only should we shake our heads in admiration of what players like Stanton and Mike Trout (who is younger than the average player in the short season Northwest League), but also drop and reflect on what we expect from minor leaguers.
Age relative to level means a lot. Not everything, but a lot. It provides valuable context that triple slash lines cannot (FWIW, Stanton slugged .611 with 28 home runs at 18 in the Sally League.) The slightly old guy currently posting a .790 OPS in A-ball for your favorite team is so very unlikely to ever “get it” that it will save you a lot of heartbreak if you just give up on him now. Giancarlo is your new god, please genuflect appropriately.