<
>

Is help on the way for Marlins' outfield?

In the wake of Mike Stanton's monster home run last Thursday, Drew Silva wonders about Stanton's future:

    The Marlins have a fairly talented outfield this season and don't have an immediate need for Stanton's presence in the big league lineup, but that could change if the mashing continues at Double-A. He should at least gain a promotion to Triple-A New Orleans by June.

    Stanton was drafted out of high school by the Marlins in the second round of the 2007 MLB June Amateur Draft. He's only 20 years old and won't turn 21 until November. This kid might be something special.

Two questions:

1. Might be something special?

2. Fairly talented outfield?

Stanton entered this season as one of the five best hitting prospects in the minors. Baseball America ranked him as the third- or fourth-best prospect overall. John Sickels wasn't nearly as optimistic, ranking him No. 7 among hitters (and presumably behind Stephen Strasburg), but behind three catchers; considering hitting talent alone, Stanton was very near the top.

In 2008, Stanton destroyed the South Atlantic League. He was 18.

In 2009, he killed the Florida State League, then struggled after a promotion to the Double-A Southern League. But he was 19. His .231/.311/.455 line was actually quite good for a baby.

Why was Sickels slightly less bullish than Baseball America? Because Stanton (as John wrote) "has a frighteningly high strikeout rate." It's true: Stanton has struck out 349 times in 298 professional games. Even this spring, he's batting .340 but with 31 strikeouts in 27 games. What's different, though, is the walks. Previously, Stanton walked roughly once for every two-and-a-half strikeouts. This season it's closer to one (unintentional) walk for every one-and-a-half strikeouts.

It's early, of course. But if Stanton can control the strike zone, he'll justify Baseball America's faith.

Now, about that Marlins outfield ... Yes, there's a fair amount of "talent" there. Chris Coghlan was Rookie of the Year last season, Cameron Maybin used to be a top prospect, and Cody Ross ... well, Cody Ross has enough power to occasionally make you forget his inability to control the strike zone.

This year, though? Train wreck. Crash site. Horror show. Epic fail.

OPS-wise, Florida's left fielders, center fielders, and right fielders rank 13th, 14th, and 15th in the National League. As a unit, they're the worst in the majors.

Stanton's probably not a long-term answer in center field, but he's got the range and arm for right field. If I was Cody Ross, I definitely wouldn't be looking at real estate near the new ballpark. And I might be staking out a spot on the bench for this July.