The Polarizing Sides of Giancarlo Stanton
For the last seven years, there have been three forms of Giancarlo Stanton: the injury, the power hitter, and the MVP. Let’s look at each.
I am unsure if I have ever in my lifetime seen a player of Stanton’s ability be so unlucky with injuries. He doesn’t have what we expect where he has one part of his body that is ailing, but has had injuries almost everywhere. Here is what he has suffered from each year:
2011 – Right Hamstring Strain, Right Quad Strain
2012 – Right Knee issues, Abdominal Strain
2013 – Right Hamstring Strain, Left Shoulder Soreness
2014 – Facial Fracture
2015 – Left Hand Fracture
2016 – Groin Strain
Here are the number of games he played in those years in both the minors and majors:
2011 – 154
2012 – 128
2013 – 116
2014 – 145
2015 – 75
2016 – 119
We can see why fantasy players always want to stay away from him, he has played over 150 games just once, and he always seems to be hurt in one way or another. However, part of me has to think of this analysis as a bit shallow. Does he get hurt? Yes, of course he does, but we aren’t talking about chronic back issues. When we look at the history, we see the right hamstring popping up twice but in the last 3 years we have 3 different injuries, and 2 of those resulted from getting hit by a pitch. The other part that creates confusion with his injury history is his physical shape. We expect to see Pablo Sandoval be injury prone, because he doesn’t look to be in good shape. However, Stanton looks like he spends his spare time dead-lifting farm animals, so it’s hard to get a pulse on the strain type injuries unless he is spending too much time in the gym. It isn’t hard for me to imagine a run of season in the future where he stays healthy and is a consistent fantasy asset.
The Power Hitter
Until this year, it’s hard to argue that there was a more powerful bat in the majors from the power perspective. For all the injury woes, Stanton has hit at least 22 home runs in each of his eight years in the majors, and has a career HR/FB rate of 26.1%. Let that sink in for a minute. Stanton is hitting a home run in more than one every four at bats. His career SLG is .548. To frame that SLG is in the ballpark of Mark McGwire(.588), Albert Pujols(.564), Ken Griffey Jr.(0.538), and Alex Rodriguez(0.550). Meaning, his power places him firmly among the best power hitters of the last 20 years, except for Barry Bonds who was in a league of his own (.607). There are two things that keep Stanton from taking the next step and keep him labeled as just a power hitter, and that is the dips in his average and what I had talked about previously, the injuries.
In 2014 we saw what looked like Stanton putting everything together, and finally living up to his potential. Unfortunately, in that year he suffered the facial fracture which brought his year to an end and ended his MVP run. His stats that year were 37 HR, 89 Runs, 105 RBI, 13 Steals, with a triple slash of 288/395/555. All while playing only 145 games. I expect if he had stayed healthy and added 10 games we would of seen 45 HR, 100 runs, 115 RBI, and maybe 15 steals. What would be no worse than a top 10 year for fantasy, possibly higher. That year he finished 2nd in NL MVP voting behind Clayton Kershaw. This brings us to this year his newest potential MVP case. According to ZIPS (the low man on his numbers), he is on a pace for 49 HR, 108 runs, 110 RBI, and triple slash at 277/370/615 playing 150 games. A better year than he had in 2014. With the Marlins not being in the conversation for a playoff spot, he likely won’t win MVP this year, but will finish in the voting for sure, and in this year he will not be the reason why the Marlins were not able to compete.
I was a Stanton owner from 2014 through 2016 in a keeper league, and lived through those ups and downs, when I finally gave in and cut bait. At that time I still felt like there were some full years left in him, but had a roster that allowed me to no longer have to drag along his risk baggage. I was fatigued by it. I sense many of you reading this, if you have owned him, are as well. But, there might be a lesson to be learned here, and I’m not sure it’s a new lesson. It comes down to injuries and the certainty of them. We should fear chronic injuries that have come from repetitive use (Tommy John, etc). But, we might not always be doing ourselves a service calling players, who get hurt in consecutive years, injury prone (see Carlos Beltran who at times in his 19 year career went consecutive years playing less than 150 games). Specifically, when it’s not the same injury or same type of injury. We should do more diligence to track and understand what is happening to the player because cannot predict the when a player will get healthy and stay healthy any better than we can predict their injuries.