Mike Stanton hit two absurd home runs yesterday. He's building quite the collection of them. Whereas most players would remember a 450-foot home run for the rest of their lives, Stanton just collects them and keeps them in a drawer like it's no big deal. He's hit a 450-foot or longer home run in every month this season except June.
After one of his absurd home runs, the internet and Twitter gets abuzz, and we all scramble to MLB.com to watch the highlights and see exactly what people can buy with credit-card points these days. Then the days pass, and Mike Stanton becomes just another young, burgeoning star among several others in baseball.
What we should do instead of marvel at how strong he is, though, is marvel at how young he is. He's 21. Mike Stanton is 21 years old. He might be the strongest hitter in the majors, his walk rate is increasing, his strikeout rate is decreasing, and he's 21. He isn't some freak show to gape at whenever he hits one of his ludicrous home runs -- he has a great chance of being a historically significant player.
The list of players who have hit 30 home runs at the age of 21 or younger can be broken down into three categories:
Hall of Famers
At no point did I have to double-check their Baseball Reference pages to see if these players had a Hall-of-Fame banner up top. These are inner-circle guys. Obviously, I'm assuming that both Rodriguez and Pujols will get in, which isn't a stretch. Miguel Cabrera is probably also in this group, but we'll ignore him because he screwed up the three-category narrative by still being in his prime.
Not Hall of Famers
Jones actually has a better shot at the Hall than you might think for a guy who disintegrated at 30, so we'll see if he gets in when the memories of his decline phase fade.
We'll never know
Both players looked like they were going to be all-time greats, but their careers were cut short -- Conigliaro's after being hit by a pitch, and Trosky's by migraines.
In other words, if Stanton stays moderately healthy, his downside looks to be as an All-Star who receives a bunch of MVP votes and appears on a few Diamond Kings. But it's more likely that he'll keep company with a bunch of inner-circle Hall-of-Famers. And if you really want to thin that group out, here's the list of the above players who had three times as many strikeouts as walks in their 30-homer season:
Which means that when a player hits as many home runs as Stanton has at his age, while displaying at least a modicum of patience, he's either a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, a tragic injury case, or Jose Canseco (who did hit 462 home runs, you know).
So why doesn't Stanton get the hype of a Bryce Harper, for example, who hasn't even seen a major-league pitch yet? The easy answer is "Marlins," but Hanley Ramirez became a star pretty quickly, so it can't all be the team. Maybe a lot of us still can't shake the idea of Mike Stanton as a lefty one-out guy. If today's Stanton went by his birth name -- Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton (really!) -- you might have his Fathead on your office wall right now.
The idea is when the Marlins move into their new stadium next year, they'll be a more noticeable team, more likely to spend to build their team and keep their players. Stanton will be the centerpiece. He could be a higher-profile guy then. The odds are great that Stanton will be a superstar soon -- the kind of player who will lead the All-Star voting in late June even if he's injured. And if he can stay healthy, he has a pretty good chance at being one of the best players we've ever seen. When a player is this good, this young, there aren't a lot of different ways it can end.