Hey remember when last May started, and Mike...I mean, Giancarlo Stanton began the month with exactly one home run, and everybody freaked out and wondered what the hell was going on? Yeah, I don't either. It seems unfathomable now, but Stanton got off to a really crappy start to 2012, and his first month home run drought (again, he hit one...one!) quickly had doomsday artists proclaiming that the Marlins' new ballpark was too big even for someone as mighty as Stanton.
Then he went and crushed twelve home runs in the month of May, and everything was well in the cosmos again. Seriously, Stanton is an absolute frigging monster. He smashed 37 home runs, which is a new career high, but that's not the impressive part. The impressive part is that he reached that total despite starting the season on the DL and missing essentially all of July. Yeah, that's nuts. Nobody in the game has more pure power than this guy. Assuming health, he's going to mash 35-40 home runs a year for a long, long time.
Stanton is basically baseball's new He-Man, the guy you get to the park early to watch take batting practice and be darn sure you aren't in the bathroom or grabbing a beer when he comes to bat. His collection of moon shots this season was eye-popping. For the uninitiated, take a look at this bomb, shameless Budweiser plug and all...
Then there was this shot that I'm not sure ever landed...
Then finally Stanton decided to engage in a bit of elder abuse by breaking the scoreboard with a Jamie Moyer offering...
That's just scratching the surface. Stanton is a budding fantasy superstar who has an outside chance at one or more seasons of 50 or more home runs. His raw power is off the charts; he could hit 30 bombs in his sleep. With a full, healthy season, it's completely reasonable to predict 40 home runs and more than 100 RBIs. In fact, that might even be conservative. With a .344 BABIP in 2012, his .290 batting average may have been flukishly high, but he provides so much power, it hardly matters even if it drops into the .260-.270 range. He's also inevitably going to see his walk totals increase as he progresses, as pitchers are going to be more and more terrified of giving him anything to hit.
Most impressive of all is that his strikeout rate has dropped since his days as a hacktastic minor leaguer. Once upon a time, Stanton struck out so much that it wasn't clear he was going to make enough contact to be a true impact slugger in the big leagues. It looked like he might become another Adam Dunn: huge power, but a black hole in batting average and strikeouts.
After whiffing in more than 30% of his plate appearances in his rookie season, though, Stanton has improved to where he isn't a liability in the category. If he brings his strikeouts down even more and can maintain a .290 average with his pop still developing, well...let's just say opposing teams may want to begin equipping their pitchers with adult diapers for when Stanton comes to the plate.
Stanton is going to be one of the best players to own in all of fantasy baseball for the next decade. That's not a question. The question is who he'll be playing for as he's wreaking havoc against opposing pitchers. The Marlins engaged in a major fire sale this offseason, trading pretty much all of their best players to the Blue Jays for a malcontent shortstop (whom they subsequently traded away) and prospects. Stanton was openly pissed off after this chain of events (bless you, Twitter) and speculation began that the Marlins would trade their angry hulk before he went smash against the front office.
While the Marlins' brass insisted they had no intention of trading Stanton any time soon, the history of this franchise saying one thing and doing another is very long. Since he's one year away from arbitration and under team control until 2017, his value will never be higher than it is now. He'd bring back an amazing haul in prospects, so it isn't at all unthinkable that Stanton could be wearing another uniform sometime soon.
Regardless of where he's playing, Stanton is a top fantasy player and a prime candidate to lead the major leagues in total home runs. He's a legit first round pick in mixed leagues, and in keeper leagues he should be one of the first players taken. Remember, the guy is just entering his age-23 season this year. He's impressed us with his moon shots already, but the best is likely yet to come.
Many have speculated that Stanton could reach 50 home runs. He certainly has the pop to do it, but for the sake of completely unscientific prediction, I'll say he falls short and reaches 47, with his batting average declining a bit to .265 due to a drop in BABIP. That still amounts to a fantasy franchise player, so don't be too conservative about where you draft him.