Cincinnati Reds v Miami Marlins

Giancarlo Stanton plays for the Miami Marlins. Giancarlo Stanton is a terrific-to-excellent baseball player. Anyone who claims those two attributes knows trade rumors are sure to dog them. Giancarlo Stanton is the focal point of more rosterbation than just about any other player in baseball because no other player in baseball can claim his combination of skill, age, and availability.

There is little to no doubt in my mind that Giancarlo Stanton will be traded by the Miami Marlins. Well, there is some doubt as the Marlins are quickly turning from The Ruthlessly Cynical Franchise to The Misanthropic Franchise Run By A Despot. They are unpredictable, like an ocelot trapped on a passenger train.

Had the Marlins traded Giancarlo Stanton last season, they could’ve asked the world in return. A 23-year old slugger still a year short of arbitration eligibility, the prospect packages offered to the Marlins would bring tears to the eyes of most internet scouts.

But now? Maybe the outlook isn’t so rosy.

As a player’s career lengthens, more and more information becomes available as to who and what this player is now and will be in the future. While every player is a special snowflake, sometimes trends and pattens emerge that are difficult to ignore. After his 2013 season, what patterns exist in Giancarlo Stanton’s game?

  1. Injuries – Giancarlo Stanton is a very large man. Still just 23-years old, Stanton stands 6’6 and is listed around 240 lbs. There is a lot of Stanton to injure and the baseball gods have not spared the would-be USC tight end. If he plays every day for the rest of the season, Stanton will fail to get into 120 games this year. Last year he played exactly 120. That is not the sort of trend you like to see from a young player.

    His injuries are as varied as they are numerous, having missed time with hamstring, quad, knee, toe, oblique, and ankle wounds over the past three seasons (including Spring Training.) None are the “freak” injuries rose-colored fans can explain away. He’s big and he breaks down. It is sad but true.

  2. Contact When you have a 23-year old with career OPS a hair under .900, it is a little silly to spend your time looking for warts in his game. And we live in a world where strikeouts are no longer the great bugaboo of yesteryear. An out is an out is an out, right? Giancarlo Stanton’s contact rate begs to differ.

    Of the 169 different player-seasons with 400+ plate appearances turned in by player under 25 since 2010, Giancarlo Stanton’s 2011, 2012, and 2013 rank as the worst by contact rate – the overall percentage of balls put in play on swings. If this seems like an odd way to group players, understand it is for a reason.

    Of the other hitters to show up at the bottom of this list, how many addressed the swing-and-miss in their game as they matured? The answer? Some. Pedro Alvarez, Matt Kemp, and Adam Jones jump out as young players who appear at the bottom of that leaderboard and showed some improvement.

    Even still, none of those hitters feature a walk rate close to Giancarlo Stanton. With nobody else in the lineup to consider, Stanton now ranks among the league leaders in walk rate. Good to see he refuses to chase pitches and expand his zone, bad to see his bat-to-ball ability stagnate well below-average.

  3. Contract – Trading a player with an extra year of control will always net a bigger return. Considering the state of the rest of their roster, not even the Marlins would be so galling as to move Stanton for the 2013 season. He, like Miguel Cabrera before him, will enter into arbitration with a heck of a case for a record reward. The Fish will fight it tooth and nail but a player with power will always do well under the current structure.

Perhaps this is an overly critical look at a player who remains one of the best power hitters in baseball. But any player who counts Mark Reynolds and Josh Hamilton among his brothers in contact rate over the last two years is worth considering. If not for his present (still very good!) but his future. As in: what if this is it for Giancarlo Stanton?

Development is non-linear, we must always recall. Because Stanton failed to make a leap forward in 2013 is not to suggest he cannot cut down on his swing-and-miss and make himself a better, more well-rounded hitter. For any team looking to acquire Stanton — knowing the king’s ransom they will pay for the privilege — must proceed with the knowledge that this is Stanton. Dreaming on a Great Leap Forward from an already great (historically so?) hitter is not wise.

Should the Marlins opt to move Stanton, they’ll bet on teams ignoring any and all of the above red flags? Most teams, quite rightly, will only remember stuff like the below.

Source: FanGraphsAlbert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Giancarlo Stanton

And nobody should blame them even one bit.