In terms of real baseball, Giancarlo Stanton
has a decent case for the National League MVP. There are some voters who don't like giving the award to pitchers, but there are also voters who do not like giving it to someone on a team that does not make the postseason. The rules for awarding the MVP to a player are completely subjective, so there is no wrong way to do so, unless one gives Michael Young
a first-place vote in any season.
For fantasy baseball purposes, no National League batter comes close to Stanton's mixed league value. At $38, Stanton has earned $8 more than Carlos Gomez
, and only Clayton Kershaw
has earned more fantasy dollars in the NL. Jose Altuve
is the only batter in either league that has bested Stanton's fantasy value. Not bad for a season when there was concern that Stanton would once again have no protection around him in the lineup.
Lineup protection is something that I have twice covered with Stanton. It is mostly much ado about nothing as covered in the previous articles. We even pointed that out in Stanton's preseason player profile this year just in case there were still doubters:
It doesn't hurt that he should also chip in excellent run production (thanks to the walk rate) regardless of who surrounds him in the lineup.
This season, Stanton has occupied the third spot in the lineup for the entire season. The batters in the fourth spot of the Marlins' lineup have combined for a .329 weighted on base average, which actually puts them in the bottom 50% of the league at 16th place. That .329 figure is a vast improvement essentially identical to 2013. Last season, the fourth spot in the Marlins' lineup had a .336 wOBA, but Stanton also hit in that spot 24 times.
This season, teams have decided to give Stanton a portion of the Bonds treatment as he has been given the four-finger pass to first 24 times after doing so just 26 times over the previous four seasons combined. If they're pitching around Stanton, it is tough to tell from his surface stats as heading into play Wednesday, he is two points off his career best batting average and has the second-best slugging percentage of his career. All while his strikeout rate and walk rate are nearly identical to last season.
His batting average has seen a 40-point spike, his on-base percentage is up 30 points, and his slugging percentage is up 76 points in a season where teams are more willing to simply put him on first base than they have been in previous seasons.
One reason he is doing better this season is that he is healthy. The hamstring issue last season was a problem for him even before the injury was bad enough to force him to the disabled list. A healthy Stanton has put a world of hurt on baseballs this season with a .355 batting average on balls in play. That BABIP is seven points higher than his previous best when he hit a career-best .290. Outside of that, Stanton still looks like the same guy as his plate discipline measures have not changed much from 2013.
Outside of an improvement in making more contact on pitches out of the zone, his plate discipline is not that much different from where it was last season. It is important to note that he is making more contact this season despite the fact he has set a career-high in strikeouts with 169 as play began Wednesday. Stanton could end up striking out 190+ times this season – should anyone really care? He has a 26.8% strikeout rate, which is a slight improvement over his 27.8% rate of 2013 and 28.5% in his monster 2012 season.
The strikeouts should be considered collateral damage for what he does when he does make contact. He hits the ball so hard when he puts it into play that it increases his chances of putting the ball in play safely. Additionally, since defenders want to play back when Stanton is up, he benefits from swinging bunts. This season, Stanton has 13 infield hits, more than double what he had last season when he was not 100 percent healthy.
The last part that has made him such a valuable fantasy player this year are the steals and what he's doing with runners in scoring position. The 12 stolen bases were a nice surprise for Stanton owners this season, and some of that is from the free trips to first base via the intentional pass. Stanton has been on first base 205 times this season by hit, walk, intentional pass, or hit by pitch. He has been on first or second base with the next base unoccupied 210 times this season; his previous best was 217 back in 2011.
Stanton has also done exceptionally well hitting with runners in scoring position this season, which has not always been a strong suit for him. Before 2014, Stanton owned a .249 batting average with runners in scoring position along with a .468 slugging percentage. This season, Stanton is batting .319 with runners in scoring position while slugging an even .600. From 2012 to 2013, Stanton had eight home runs and 78 runs driven in with runners in scoring position. Already in 2014, he has 10 home runs and 67 runs driven in with runners in scoring position.
The scary part for non-Stanton fantasy owners and the league is that Stanton is just 24 years old and he is doing this damage in a pitchers' park while playing an unbalanced schedule against a division with excellent pitching. Stanton is going to enjoy the fruits of his labor in arbitration and may force Miami's hand in dealing him before free agency for a king's ransom. Any relocation for Stanton to a team that has more financial flexibility than the Miami Marlins will only enhance his value, especially if he were to find his way to a place such as Fenway Park.
If Stanton's ADP is any lower than fifth overall in 2015 drafts, I will be surprised. That said, he will be hard-pressed to repeat the opportunity-driven production in steals and runs driven in because one season of excellent production cannot erase four seasons of data. This is still a first-round talent for 2015, but this has the makings of a Carlos Gomez
situation next spring in draft season.