Mike Stanton, the player who has arguably the most raw power in baseball right now, but is also, arguably the most overrated player in drafts. It’s easy to fall in love with him, since he consistently launches baseballs into the stratosphere, but that’s all he does, and that is definitely not worth the price tag. You’re not getting a bonus for the distance of home runs, so why on earth would you want him on your team?
This article takes a look at what Stanton has to do to be a worthy investment, now and in the future. I don't think you will like what you're about to see.
Mike Stanton has a current ADP of 22.80 on Mock Draft Central. The first time I saw this, I couldn’t believe my eyes. He is being drafted ahead of players like Ian Kinsler and Andrew McCutchen. This is beyond shocking. Here we have two players, one that plays a prime position, that have the ability to put up 20/30 seasons while also putting up a high average, something than Stanton will not do. 35 home runs, 5 stolen bases, and a .260 average in the OF is not a 2nd round talent, it’s a 5th.
People always seem to go insane when I say Mike Stanton is the same player Adam Dunn was. Did you ever draft Adam Dunn in the second? Why not? He was always a guy who you could get in the 4th round, and expect the same stats, year in and year out. We’re not even sure if Mike Stanton is able to do that for us yet, so I am being generous with that comparison. No, Mike Stanton was not a better athlete than Adam Dunn when he first came up, and no, he does not have more power.
Mike Stanton was recruited out of high school to play college football, and to play Wide Receiver, a position that demands speed and athleticism. The problem is, that was a long time ago, and he’s 22 now. If he had gone to college, he could have earned a 4 year degree by now. In those 4 years, you can put on a lot of weight, or build up tons of muscle mass. I’m sure there are some us that have been to college and can testify about how easy it is to put on weight in those 4 years after high school. Stanton is no exception, as he put on over 30 pounds after high school, and whether it is upper body muscle or fat, it does not matter. It will still take away from some of that athleticism. For this reason, he is not going to magically break out and steal 30 bases, no matter what his insane former manager may believe.
Mike Stanton is slow. Forget about the past, and look at how he is now. You don’t get extra stolen bases for being fast a few years ago. His Bill James Speed Scores over his first two seasons are 3.5 and 4.3. In Adam Dunn’s first two seasons, he had speed scores of 5.0 and 4.4. Adam Dunn wasn’t a bad athlete when he first came up, and even managed to steal 19 bases in 158 games, but this is just proof that players get bigger and slower as they age. For further comparison, the average outfielder had a speed score of 5.4 last season.
His power is unquestioned, but this doesn’t mean he is a lock to hit a record breaking amount of home runs. It’s time for a little baseball history. 50 home runs have been hit in a season a grand total of 42 times. Mike Stanton managed to hit 34 home runs in his age 22 season, an impressive feat. Judging by his age and raw power, he must be a lock to hit 50 home runs at some point, right? Wrong.
Albert Pujols isn’t a great power hitter because he has extreme raw power, but because he has above average power and above average contact skills, something Mike Stanton lacks, as well as Adam Dunn. Of those 42 seasons in which a player hit 50 home runs, only 2 of them came from a player with a strikeout rate above 25%. Less than 5% of all 50 home run seasons, come from a player with contact problems. Those two seasons were courtesy of Cecil Fielder (1990) and Ryan Howard (2006).
Batted ball data is not available for the 1990 season, so Cecil Fielder is not a comparison we can make for Mike Stanton at this point. However, Ryan Howard and Mike Stanton share some interesting qualities. In 2006, Ryan Howard hit 36.2% Fly Balls, and 58 home runs, which lead to an absolutely ridiculous 39.5% HR/FB rate. Mike Stanton in 2011, hit 38.5% Fly Balls, and 34 home runs which lead to a 24.8% HR/FB rate.
To get those extra 16 home runs needed to get to 50, Stanton would need to hit approximately 55% Fly Balls while maintaining his current HR/FB rate. Adam Dunn hits 47% of his balls in play in the air, and has 21.4% HR/FB rate, but has never hit more than 46 home runs in one given season. Not a single player had more than a 51% Fly Ball rate last season, and there was only one above 50%.
We can assume that he does start to hit more fly balls as he ages, but that will cost him some his average, as fly balls turn into to less hits than ground balls and line drives. Barry Bonds managed a 29% HR/FB rate during his dominant seasons, so let’s give Stanton the benefit of the doubt and assume he can reach that figure. If the number of fly balls he hits remains consistent and he starts hitting like Barry Bonds, he still would not crack 40 home runs.
This should tell you how hard it is to hit home runs in baseball when you can’t make contact. The fact that Adam Dunn was able to do so for many years speaks volumes about the amount of power he has.
Stanton could progress to have better pitch recognition over time, and it would not surprise me, but I’d bet against him ever reaching 50 home runs. A hitter’s power peak is around 24 years old, so if Stanton is going to become that elite power hitter, he needs to cut his strikeouts, and increase the number of fly balls he hits, and quickly. After 24, he could cut his strikeouts but his power peak will be behind him and any drop in power will need to come with another drop in strikeouts.
There’s a lot to like with Mike Stanton, which makes it easy to fall in love with his potential, but you would be banking on a player changing his skill set in such a short time frame that he is not worth the risk at pick 22. If Stanton fell to me in round 4, I’d be willing to take a chance on him, but not before hand. There is no guarantee that he ever turns into an elite power hitter. If he turns into Adam Dunn, everyone should be ecstatic.