Monday, March 26, 2018

Meet a Prospect Special Edition: Giancarlo Stanton

Wow guys, Daniel Burch be slacking. Somehow, someway the New York Yankees shocked the world acquiring the reigning National League MVP from the Miami Marlins in Giancarlo Stanton and I did not formally and officially introduce him to the Greedy Pinstripes family. My apologies, I do not know how this one slipped through the cracks. With that said, and I don’t need to say much because it is Giancarlo freaking Stanton we are talking about here, let us honor and introduce one of the newest members of the Yankees the only way we know how. This is Meet a Prospect Special Edition: The Giancarlo freaking Stanton Edition baby!!

Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton was born on November 8, 1989 as a future man of many names. I say this because his mother calls him Cruz, but his father and other relatives call him Mike or Mikey. Stanton was known as Mike Stanton all the way through High School, his minor league career and through the 2011 season MLB season before letting it be known that he preferred to be called Giancarlo. Giancarlo comes from African American, Irish and Puerto Rican descent and grew up idolizing both Roberto Clemente and Ivan Rodriguez, who are both from Puerto Rico.

Stanton attended Verdugo Hills High School in Tujunga, California for two years before transferring to Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California where “Mike” became a three-sport athlete. Stanton obviously played baseball, but also played wide receiver and cornerback in football, and also played basketball. Stanton was offered football scholarships from UCLA, UNLV and USC to play football but decided that baseball was his passion leading him to accept a scholarship from Tulane to play baseball, thus beginning his amateur career. Well, that was the plan anyway until the Florida Marlins came calling in the second round, 76th overall, of the 2007 Major League Baseball First Year Players Draft with a $475,000 signing bonus. Rather than go to Tulane to play baseball like he committed to Giancarlo was headed to the minor leagues instead with the Gulf Coast League Marlins.

Giancarlo was moved through the Marlins system quickly after signing making quick pit stops in the Gulf Coast League, the Class-A Short Season New York – Penn League, and A-Ball through the 2008 season. While in A-Ball with the Greensboro Grasshoppers Giancarlo showed the Marlins what kind of power he could possess hitting 39 home runs with a .293 batting average and 97 RBI. Giancarlo opened a lot of eyes within the Marlins organization and even received an invitation to the 2009 Marlins spring training camp after winning numerous post-season awards for his performance in the 2008 minor league season. With that showing Giancarlo was ranked as the 16th best prospect in all of Major League Baseball according to Baseball America, all at age 18 (soon-to-be 19).

Stanton continued his quick move towards the Major Leagues in 2009 with stops with Class A-Advanced and a trip to Double-A after being named to the All-Stars Futures Game for Team USA. After the season Giancarlo represented the Marlins in the Arizona Fall League and was named the 3rd best prospect in all of Major League Baseball and the top prospect in the Marlins system according to Baseball America and John Manuel. Stanton began the 2010 season in Triple-A for the Marlins, but he was not long for the league as Florida decided to call up Giancarlo to the Major Leagues on June 6th of 2010. Giancarlo was just 20-years old at the time of his call up making him the third youngest player in Marlins history to be called up to the Show behind Edgar Renteria and Miguel Cabrera. Stanton debuted with a 3-for-5 night with two infield singles and two runs scored. Giancarlo had a great rookie season that ended with him being named as an outfielder on Baseball America’s 2010 All-Rookie Team as well as an outfielder on the 2010 Topps Major League Rookie All-Star Team.

For as many highs as Giancarlo had in 2010 he had just as many lows in 2011 due to leg and eye injuries that kept the outfielder from really being consistent at the plate. Stanton overall finished the season with 34 home runs and 87 RBI in 516 at-bats but finished with just a .262 batting average. Giancarlo used the injury riddled season as motivation for him in the 2012 season which saw Stanton be named to the National League All-Star Team for the first time in his MLB career. Giancarlo was slated to participate in the Home Run Derby as well that season but ended up missing both events after undergoing knee surgery in July of 2012. Despite the injury and missing the Mid-Summer Classic Giancarlo finished the season with a .290 batting average, 37 home runs, a .361 OBP, and a .608 slugging percentage. The 2013 season was another typical season for Giancarlo, just with a few more injuries than he would have like sprinkled in.

Stanton represented Team USA in the World Baseball Classic before the 2013 season, but it was downhill after that as by the end of April the right fielder was on the disabled list with a Grade II hamstring injury. Stanton missed six weeks of the season ending the season with just 425 at-bats, a .249 average, 106 hits, 62 RBI and 24 home runs including his 99th and 100th of his career. Stanton came into the 2014 season more determined than ever to stay on the field and stay healthy, and that he did with another NL All-Star Game appearance representing the Marlins. Stanton finished the 2014 season with a .288 batting average, 37 home runs, 105 RBI, and 94 walks, but his 2014 season may best be remembered as the season he took a fastball to the face off then Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Mike Fiers. Stanton was hit in the face with the ball resulting in multiple facial fractures, lacerations and dental damage which is why he wears the protective head piece on his batting helmet that he can be seen wearing even today, four years later. Stanton, despite the injury, finished second in the NL MVP vote behind Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. The runner up position in the NL MVP vote was likely disappointing, but he wasn’t disappointed long after the Miami Marlins approached their right fielder about a contract extension that offseason.

On November 17, 2014 the Marlins and Stanton agreed to the most lucrative contract in sports history when the two teams decided on a contract that would pay Stanton $325 million over the next 13 seasons. The deal included a no-trade clause and an opt-out clause written into the contract that Stanton could exercise after he turns 30-years old. Stanton’s salary would increase each year he played for the Marlins per the terms of the deal. Heading into the 2015 season all eyes were on Stanton and whether he could live up to the most lucrative contract given in all the major North American sports and Stanton did everything he could, and everything his body would let him, to do just that. Stanton hit bombs in 2015, 27 of them in 74 games, but his season would end prematurely once again due to injury in 2015 after breaking the hamate bone in his left wrist during the month of June. Once again, a season ended much earlier than it should have for Stanton.

Stanton was determined to make the 2016 season not only a full season, but his best season yet at the Major League level. Stanton did not get elected to the National League All-Star team in 2016, but he was selected to participate in the 2016 Home Run Derby and Stanton made a statement for all to see on that eventful Monday night. Stanton hit a total of 61 home runs winning the Derby, a new record for a single Home Run Derby, including the 10 longest home runs hit that night and 18 of the 19 longest among the eight competitors. Stanton once again missed time in August and September after suffering another Grade II hamstring strain, this time missing 22 games. Stanton ended the season with a .240 batting average, 27 home runs and 74 RBI. While this was a down season by all accounts for Stanton he was able to make it back on the field by the end of the 2016 season, something that his doctors and the training staff did not see happening after the hamstring injury.

Stanton finally put it all together for a complete season in 2017 earning his fourth selection to the All-Star Game as a representative for the National League. Stanton once again participated in the Home Run Derby but lost in the first round by one home to the New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez despite putting on another show for the fans. Stanton set a Marlins franchise record for the most home runs in a season with his 43rd home run on August 14, passing Gary Sheffield’s 42 home runs set in 1996, and even hit a home run in six consecutive games in 2017, also a franchise record. Stanton ended the 2017 season with 59 home runs, 132 RBI and a .281 batting average earning Giancarlo not only his second Hank Aaron Award of his career, but his first National League Most Valuable Player Award as well, beating out Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto by two voting points.

During the offseason of the 2018 season the Miami Marlins ownership changed hands to a group that included former Yankees legend Derek Jeter. New ownership sought to dump salary and start fresh with the organization which began and ended with Stanton. The Marlins began the process of trying to deal Stanton and his no-trade clause to the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants, but Stanton exercised his NTC in both deals. In the end the New York Yankees acquired Stanton and cash considerations from the Marlins for Starlin Castro and minor leaguers Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. Stanton became just the second player in Major League history to be traded the season after hitting 50 home runs, the other being Greg Vaughn, but instantly the reigning NL MVP became first in the hearts of Yankees fans after his acquisition.

Stanton has immediately become a fan favorite in New York and the “best friend” (as evident by the tweet sent by his new teammate on Twitter after news broke of the trade) of current Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge. Stanton will split time between the outfield and the DH position here in 2018, something that will hopefully keep him fresh and healthy all season long and should be penciled in for about 173 home runs this season. Marlins Park was named one of the six hardest parks to hit a home run out of in 2017, so hitting inside Yankee Stadium III at least 81 games a season should truly benefit the right-handed slugger.

I know I am late and I know this has probably been said numerous times before, but better late than never. Giancarlo, Mike, Cruz, whomever. Welcome to New York, welcome to the biggest stage, welcome to the team, welcome to the tradition and the history that is the Yankees, and most importantly WELCOME TO THE FAMILY!!!

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