March 2, 2013
Despite a right knee injury that kept him out of 25 games between July and August, and a September strained oblique that cost him nine games, Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton still hit 37 home runs. While the Marlins began pawning off parts of their roster, sending Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers, Stanton became an offensive tour de force in the National League. His .608 slugging percentage paced the league and he hit his 90th career home run on September 11, becoming the first player to reach the 90-homer plateau before his 22nd birthday since Alex Rodriguez in 1998. You have to go all the way back to 1980, Atlanta's Bob Horner, before you find another player who accomplished the feat.
Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projection system, featured at FanGraphs, has Stanton hitting 41 home runs with a .286 average, .367 on-base percentage, and .606 slugging percentage during the 2013 season. Only Joey Votto, by virtue of a significantly higher on-base percentage (.423) is expected to match Stanton offensively.
The Marlins, overall, are still expected to host one of baseball's worst offenses regardless of Stanton's presence in the lineup. As a result, the RBI's may come in even fewer bunches, but Stanton still has the opportunity to stand out. 2012 saw no players cross the 1.000 OPS line (Miguel Cabrera just missed at .999) and 2011 saw only two (Jose Bautista and Cabrera), but with Stanton projected at .973, there is a very real possibility he joins the crowd.
Most impressively, though, Stanton is showing progress on defense and on the base paths. MLB.com's Joe Frisaro writes:
There are also signs of improvement in the field, as he is getting terrific jumps and showing range to make catches on balls hit into the gap.
"He's a special player," manager Mike Redmond said. "He can throw. He can play defense. He hits. He hits for power. He does it all. He's a five-tool guy.
Not exactly a speed demon, Stanton stole six bases in eight attempts last year and played average defense in right while displaying an incredibly strong arm. He has to be considered one of the five National Leaguers most likely to take home the MVP award when the season is over, along with Votto, Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, and Bryce Harper.