This article is part of our John Sickels' Column series.
Report on Michael Stanton
For prospect followers, one of the biggest enigmas entering 2009 is Florida outfield prospect Mike Stanton.
Michael Stanton was drafted by the Marlins in the second round in 2007, out of high school in Sherman Oaks, California. An exceptional athlete, he had multiple baseball and football scholarships available, but signed for $475,000. He was considered a first-round talent in terms of pure athleticism, but the college question and his relative rawness knocked his stock back one round. After a mediocre 17-game short-season debut, he played last year in the South Atlantic League at age 18, showing immense potential but also some weaknesses that will have to be addressed as he moves up.
TRADITIONAL SCOUTING REPORT
Stanton is a 6-5, 205 pound chiseled athlete, born November 8, 1989. A right-handed hitter and thrower, Stanton offers all Five Tools, particularly immense physical strength and above average speed. He crushes fastballs and has excellent pull-power. He needs additional outfield polish, but that will come in time and he projects as a strong right fielder with a good arm and above-average range. Stanton's personality, work ethic and intensity on the field are also highly-rated. It is a good thing he has a sound work ethic, because he will need it to refine his hitting skills. He has enormous power, but his ability against breaking balls draws mixed reviews. The Marlins say he has good plate discipline for his age, despite a very high strikeout rate, but other observers say that Stanton has serious weaknesses against breaking balls, and that his ability to make contact will be sorely tested against better pitching. Given his age, he has time to overcome this and become a more complete hitter.
Stanton hit .293/.381/.611 last year in the South Atlantic League, hitting 39 homers and posting an incredible +40 percent OPS. He drew 58 walks in 468 at-bats, but struck out 153 times, a very high rate. The fact that he drew walks at a decent clip is helpful and indicates he isn't a total hacker, but the high strikeout rate gives credence to the scouting reports that he has major problems against breaking balls. Despite his above average speed, he stole just four bases. Swiping bags may never be a big part of his game, but if he continues to develop his power, no one will worry about the steals. Another factor in his favor is age-relative-to-league. Anyone who hits 39 homers in a full-season league at age 18 projects as a monster power hitter. The one flaw is the strikeout rate, and unless he gets that under control, his batting average and OBP at higher levels will suffer.
FANTASY INVESTMENT VALUE
In a short-term league with a narrow time horizon, Stanton isn't worth much: he's at least a year away. In a long-term league that rewards aggressive prospect investment, Stanton has to be on your list if you are looking for a power hitter. Also keep in mind that because of the contact issues, there is enough risk here to warrant some caution, but the potential reward is also very high. Stanton should move up to the Florida State League this year, a more difficult environment for a young power hitter. We will monitor his progress closely as the season progresses. If he makes the right adjustments, he could be a Top 10 prospect entering 2010.
For full reports on Stanton and over 1,000 others, pre-order the 2009 Baseball Prospect Book, available only at Johnsickels.net. Now Shipping!
Article first appeared 3/17/09