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Is It Time to Give up on Giancarlo Stanton?

Miami Marlins LogoOver the last several seasons, I’ve been asked, “Why are you so hard on a guy who has hit 37 home runs (twice)? And he hasn’t even reached 550 AB yet! You’re too pessimistic.” Actually, usually that last sentence is more along the lines of “You’re a moron.” Among the elite hitters, everyone agrees Mike Trout is a stud. Five years ago, everyone agreed it was Miguel Cabrera. Ten years ago, Albert Pujols was the best option. But there are always a few touted players that polarize fantasy managers, to the point where people either buy high on a guy or avoid him like the plague. In my case, I’m on the “avoid” side of the Giancarlo Stanton argument. I have been for years, and I’ll continue to be. By the end of the article, perhaps I’ll have convinced one reader to pass on Stanton as a franchise bat, despite his 50-HR pace from 2015.

Let’s start with his previous seasons. What’s not to like about the immense power he has displayed since coming up in 2010? I’ll grant you that home runs are a bit harder to find these days, so anyone who can hit 30+ gets a boost in value, and the fact that he has the projection for 40+ is even better. His HR/FB% ranges from elite to superhuman, and his FB% is rather stable. I can’t make an argument against his home run rate. But wait, I’m not admitting defeat! There are many more factors that go into a player’s value, and just because he may hit 40 home runs one day doesn’t mean he’s worthy of being the cornerstone of your fantasy team.

Now let’s hit the obvious and most impactful argument. Stanton’s distinct lack of health started in his first full season. In 2011, he battled through leg and eye injuries to play in 150 games. Then he dealt with knee issues in 2012, eventually submitting to surgery. He strained a hamstring in 2013 and spent 41 days on the DL. In 2014 he was hit in the face and missed nearly a month at the end of the season. Then last season he broke his wrist/hand in June and missed the rest of the year.

I know some of this may be bad luck, such as the 2014 beaning, but when he’s missed (significant) time every season of his career, you have to label him as injury prone, and as such you have to discount his value because he will not make it through 162 games. If he’s not on the field as often as other sluggers, his odds of breaking 40 homers are much lower, despite his epic HR/FB rate. He also won’t pile up as many counting stats, which partly explains his lackluster run and RBI totals compared to other elite bats. In order to provide first round value, players generally have to be healthy all year. He simply can’t do it, and so he doesn’t merit a first round pick or your #1 keeper slot.

The argument against me here is, “But one season he WILL be healthy, and then he’ll hit 50 HR! You’ll see!” But as a franchise player, I want to target someone who has a history of health, because he has to be playing for me every year to warrant the high cost. Do you remember when Troy Tulowitzki was always a first round pick, often in the top half of the round? It took much longer than it should have, but managers are finally backing off of his “one day he’ll be healthy” potential — his ADP for 2016 was 52, and he went as low as 92. Even his highest pick was 16, still outside the first round for most leagues. If you aren’t discounting Stanton like you are now discounting Tulo, then you’re overvaluing him.

I mentioned Stanton’s lower counting numbers in runs and RBIs, and part of that is clearly due to lower AB totals. However, it’s also a product of the team around him. The Marlins haven’t finished higher than third in the division since Stanton has been a full-time player. With a poor lineup around him, he has fewer chances to drive in runs. He also can be pitched around more often, because the lack of depth means teams simply don’t have to face him when the game is on the line. Normally I’m not one to put a lot of value on the team a player is on, but when it’s the Marlins, and they have a long history of putting a horrible product on the field, one has to wonder how much better the lineup will get around Stanton.

As for the metrics, my go-to approach for evaluating players, are there any red flags? There’s nothing major, but aside from power, Stanton doesn’t have the safest or most reliable skill set. His batting average has fluctuated from .249 to .290. When he sports a high BABIP, he can put up an above average BA (see 2012, 2014), but the BABIP has to be well above average (over .350). No one can sustain that, and so when he comes back down to earth, you have to deal with the .250-.265 batting average. Hey, a .265 is plenty respectful these days — but it’s certainly not elite. The low contact rate also means he won’t get any better or more consistent, and so his BA boosts are entirely luck and HR dependent. In this case, it’s simply another category where he won’t provide elite value. He has power, sure, but the batting average won’t be special, and neither will his run and RBI totals due to his always limited playing time.

When looking to the future, are his early returns indicative of anything? Well, it’s not like other big names aren’t struggling to start in 2016. Goldschmidt, my choice for the #1 draft slot this year, is ranked 148 for CBS 5×5, one slot behind Stanton’s 147. It’s early, so how much judgment can we really pass? I’ll hold off on the final nail in the coffin, but in spring training Stanton was limited in playing time due to his knee.

For the actual 2016 season, again it’s early, but I note that his LD% is a career low, and his GB% has spiked a bit. He’s also making hard contact at a rate below the league average. When he hits a home run, it’s a no-doubter with a HR/FB% in line with his career, but overall his hard hit rate being down could be problematic. His infield fly ball rate is the second highest of his career, and his soft hit rate is a career high. What’s more, for his entire career his contact rate has been between 66% and 68%. That’s extremely consistent. In 2016 he’s sitting at 62%. Yes, it’s only a month, and he had a low month in 2015 too (63%), but when combined with the other factors here, it doesn’t fill me with optimism that THIS is the year he finally hits 50 HR. He has had hot Aprils in the past, and he’s had colder Aprils. In May he’s always been solid, so if he doesn’t produce well by next month, it’s a red flag for the season.

Stanton does have value for your fantasy team. His power is legit, and that keeps him in the first two or three rounds of any draft. But at this point, I don’t see any great change in his game or his health to warrant his cost as a first round pick or a #1 keeper. Adam Dunn could hit 40 HR too, but that and RBIs were all he offered. Stanton hits for better average than Dunn, but honestly, the rest of his stats are eerily similar, yet Stanton costs far more than Dunn ever did. At the least, he doesn’t produce a full season of stats that is a cut above the rest, like Trout’s and Harper’s breakouts. Heck, he doesn’t produce a full season, period, because he can’t stay on the field — and after five years of injuries, it’s time to factor that in. Yet many fantasy owners are still clinging to the belief that Stanton will have a season for all time. Maybe he will, once. But as a consistent value, he’s nowhere near the top-10 hitters.

I get that he’s 26 and still in his prime, but he’s also a veteran at this point, with an established track record of performance (and DL time). If you’re a Stanton owner in any format, I would look for a trade partner who still believes with all his might that Stanton will be the elite stud we’d all hoped for. Trade him if you can get a great return, and don’t worry about the small chance he has to put together an MVP season. You’re more likely to reap the rewards from the pieces you get in trade than he is to rank #1 at the end of 2016 and beyond.

 

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Kevin Jebens
Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.
Kevin Jebens

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16 comments on “Is It Time to Give up on Giancarlo Stanton?

  1. would you trade stanton for N. Arenado

    • Yes, without hesitation. Arenado’s best season (2015) compares to Stanton’s best in roto dollar value. His HR/FB is lower than Stanton’s but is still well above the MLB average, and he hits a ton of fly balls to make up for the lower HR/FB. What’s more, he’s crushing the ball this year (via hard hit rate) despite a low LD%. He doesn’t have to rely on BABIP to produce a BA above .280.

      Unless you already had, say, Donaldson at 3B with no CI slot, there’s no reason not to make this trade. Even then, I’d say go for it, because as the article states, I’m pessimistic about Stanton, and surely you have a DH slot to hold a second 3B.

      • Here is the trade I am offering I get Dee Gordon, Arenado and Matz I trade Stanton, Panik and Adam Jones this is a keeper. I have as my OF Cargo Springer Bryant and Mazara

        • Gordon is elite, given SB harder to find. Arenado a stud. Matz a great young arm. You win this trade, though you may want to find a decent OF backup for CarGo. Adam Jones is the wild card in the trade, but as much as I like him, he’s on a decline and isn’t as reliable as he used to be. I wouldn’t let him stop me from gaining a top 2B and the best 3B.

  2. please more articles like these! and if you could email them to all the other teams in the leagues which I play that would be great…

    you sound like the idiots in one of my leagues who were calling Bryce harper overrated and a bust after 2014, when he only hit 13 bombs in his age 21 season.

    Stanton has elite tools and elite talent. this is not a guy anybody should be dealing (unless it’s for trout or harper).

    if his injuries were all in one area and seemed likely to reoccur, like a profar or a bundy, I could see some hesitation, but these are all fluke things. he’s not gonna break bones in his face or hand every year because of HBP’s.

    (also, his career avg is .269, so you’re getting a 270 hitter, not 250-ish)

    • His career BA is .269, sure. But you’re including the two BABIP inflated years. I pointedly said if he has a BABIP near the MLB average, he hits below that. Four seasons in the .249-.265 range are what you can base projections on. And again, .265 isn’t bad — it’s just not great. It doesn’t hurt your fantasy team in roto, but it doesn’t add value to it. You can’t say “you’re getting a .270 hitter” because he’s shown a history of being below that mark more often than not.

      Regarding injuries, I freely admit that one was a flukes, the beaning. But when he’s been hurt in every season of his career, it calls into question his durability, regardless of the fluke beaning. For the hand, I wouldn’t call it a fluke. He didn’t get hit by a pitch — his hand simply broke for some reason. Fragile bone from some previous collision or hit by pitch? Who knows. But the numbers speak for themselves: five full seasons, and he’s never reached 550 AB. Three times he was under 450 AB. Stanton needed his career best AB total and a lucky BABIP to boost his BA in order to reach top-10 value in 2014. I won’t project a .350 BABIP and 500+ AB for him, so everything has to break right (on the field, not on his body) for him to be that valuable.

      Stanton was the #48 player in 2011. He was #33 in 2012. He was #162 in 2013. He was #8 in 2014 — finally a first round value. He was #132 in 2015. Yes, he has the ability to be a top-5 batter, but he’s only reached it once.

      In 2012 when he was #33, He was the 27th best hitter. Of those 27 batters, he was 20th in RBI, and 26th in R. Again, fewer AB (and no lineup protection) meant his counting stats are subpar for elite sluggers. He was 5th in HR, which is what kept his value up. He was only 17th in BA out of that group, and that was with his extra luck. He had the lowest AB total by nearly 70.

      You are welcome to your opinion that if only he was healthy, he’d be a super stud. With his elite power tool (I don’t question that), he may be capable of 40 HR every season — as long as he gets 550 AB every year. But he doesn’t, and until he shows he can stay on the field for a full season, I’d bet money on him finishing out of the top-20 rather than inside the top-20.

  3. Jim g…. if you think Stanton is better than Arenado, that’s your problem. Kevin is not telling people to give away Stanton.

  4. i don’t think anybody’s got a problem here. owning ryan howard is a problem. Stanton or areando? not so much…

    but if you’re worried about Stanton’s health/ab’s and using it as reason to “give up” on him, does arenado not pose more risk?

    can you imagine Stanton putting up seasons with only 10 or 18 hr’s? maybe if he only played 20-30 games. Stanton’s a year older than arenado and has 110 more homers. they’re certainly close and you could make an argument for Nolan because of positional value, but “giving up” on Stanton is ludicrous.

    • “if you’re worried about Stanton’s health/ab’s and using it as reason to give up on him, does arenado not pose more risk?”

      No, he doesn’t. Arenado has one big injury in his short MLB career. Stanton has four years of missing time. Ryan Zimmerman and Tulowitzki constantly miss time. There are different issues for those players, not always the same thing. But they’ve proven to owners that they are unreliable in terms of playing time. Stanton is at the same point.

      “can you imagine Stanton putting up seasons with only 10 or 18 hr’s?”

      Stanton has a clear advantage in consistent power. No denying his elite power tool. But Arenado is developing his stroke, with three seasons of improving HR/FB (and proven power outside of Coors). A 19% last year is certainly lower than Stanton’s HR/FB. But because Arenado actually stays on the field all season, he cracks 40 HR before Stanton does.

      “Stanton’s a year older than arenado and has 110 more homers.”

      This is a poor argument because Stanton has simply played more seasons. Of course he’ll have more total HR. That’s like saying Pujols has more total HR than Trout, so Pujols is clearly better moving forward.

      Stanton’s other tools are far from elite. Power is off the charts, yes. His BA tool is suspect, and the low contact rate is a big part of that. Among the top-30 hitters in WAR for 2014, Stanton’s breakout year, he had the lowest contact rate of any hitter. Looking at 2012-15 stats, Stanton is 16th in WAR, and he still has the lowest contact rate (68.2%) of the top-30 hitters. For that span, the only other hitter below 74% contact is Chris Davis. Some hitters can survive with low contact, but it’s not the safe bet.

  5. good stuff kevin. my point about arenado being a bigger risk, is that he has only one non-sub par season under his belt, whereas Stanton has at least 3. I KNOW Stanton is a legit 40+ home run guy and I don’t know if the same can be said of Nolan. (I really hate arguing against him though because I’ve owned arenado in all my leagues since 2010, but whatevs).

    and the thing about Stanton is he could play only 120 games in a season and still be better than almost everybody else. shit, last year, 120 games would’ve put him at 43 bombs and 108 rbis!

    I have zero issue with the avg (because I play in OBP leagues), and the two years he posted really high babip’s, he had elevated line drive rates as well, and I’d gladly take less line drives and a lower babip if it means more power.
    power wins championships.

    and Stanton has a TON more homers (despite being only a year older) because he’s more talented and the impetus to get him on the field was great than with arenado.

    let’s take Stanton’s 3 worst seasons and match them up with arenado’s 3

    NA – 401 games, 204 R, 70 HR, 243 RBI’s 280/318/X
    GS – 290 games, 154 R, 73 HR, 188 RBI’s 256/347/X

    111 less games and pretty damn close to as valuable. sub in any of the other seasons for stantons rookie year and he’s more valuable than arenado.

    if it were always a knee or always a shoulder, I could absolutely see downgrading Stanton, but there’s no reason to think these are chronic ailments and I’d bet one more injury and the marlins move him to 1b to keep him healthy, like the padres have done with wil myers. (which honestly might be best for everyone)

  6. You have a point about Arenado having only one major season so far. But he’s been touted since he came up, and odds are he can hold on to most of the gains from 2015. Metrics don’t indicate that much of last season was luck. It’s simply whether you believe in his HR/FB growth, and given that he’s further improved on it in April 2016, I’m willing to say 30+ HR is legit. It’s a risk, but I don’t feel he’s more risky than hoping for a healthy Stanton season.

    A move to 1B for Stanton may help, but I’m not even sure. I think we simply have to agree to disagree on the injury issue. And that’s the beauty of fantasy baseball — so many different approaches. I get the “it’s not one chronic issue” argument. but I see the Zimmermans and Tulowitzkis and others out there, and I know some MLB players simply aren’t as durable and have issues staying healthy all career long. Look at Griffey: hamstring, knee tendon, shoulder, ankle tendon, more hamstring, broken hand. All different injuries, but they killed his potential. I’m not saying Stanton is guaranteed to be the next Griffey, but I’m simply not going to rely on him as my #1 keeper and pay $40 for him every year.

    Of course, when he ends up staying healthy this year and hits 60 HR, you can say, “I told you so.” =P

  7. Came across this searching for answers to a dynasty trade I was offered:

    Stanton for Conforto and Velasquez. I’m currently 11/16 in the league. At best, I think I finish middle of the pack. My SP is awful. I thought about trying to get a MiLB keeper out of it too (guy has Nick Williams and Aaron Blair). Thoughts?

    • Thanks for stumbling upon us! I’m personally really high on Conforto, but the standard caveat is that he and Velasquez are a bit unproven, whereas you know what you’re getting with Stanton (at least in terms of skills — not AB).

      I don’t like that the Mets generally keep Conforto as a platoon right now, but perhaps it’s to give him a better chance of doing well early in his career and build confidence and experience. His BABIP against lefties in 2016 is unlucky, but it may also be due to a bad approach against them. I think he’ll develop to be good enough against lefties, and the Mets will eventually lose Granderson and not need to share playing time so much in the outfield.

      As for Velasquez, I kept him as one of my 20 keepers in a 16-team league, so I’m high on him too. His K/9 is solid with good velocity and an above average swinging strike rate. His BABIP and strand rate are a little lucky so far, but his skills are decent enough to survive MLB averages in those stats. He does have a high fly ball rate, but so far he’s kept his HR/FB in check. Bright future, but inherent risk in any young SP.

      If you’re giving up Stanton, I may try to insist on someone who’s more proven, plus one of these two players. Despite my insistence that Stanton can’t be a top-5 guy because he’s never healthy, someone should be willing to pay that price. If you can get, say, McCutchen and Velasquez, or Conforto and Gerrit Cole, try for something like that.

      Adding a minors is okay, but it’s just adding more unknown value. Depending on your league (full roster keepers due to dynasty?), maybe the minors have pretty high value, but I’m usually the pessimist here — see Paul for minor appraisals.

      • Thanks for your quick response! Owner said he would change out Polanco for Conforto, which would give me a SB bump but do little to replace the HRs…

        • Hmm. Polanco gets a lot of love, and he’s still young and can improve more, certainly. But a GB% tilt and less amazing HR/FB potential does cap his power. (Of course, they’re both at 12% so far this year, but more FB for Conforto means better totals.) I feel that Polanco will likely be a better real life player than a fantasy superstar. I’d prefer Conforto’s likely higher HR and BA.

          Don’t be afraid to put Stanton on the block for all to offer. If this guy approached you, but you haven’t asked what others will pay, then do so. Some owners get annoyed by that, but if he’s not offering an obvious YES trade anyway, it’s worth exploring all your options.

          • polanco’s better, in my opinion because at least he has a chance to be in the top 5-10 in a category or two (runs and sb’s) and he has better bar speed than conforto. maybe he hasn’t had the power results that conforto has thus far, but look at the scouting reports; the power profiles aren’t that different.
            conforto, to me, just isn’t that exciting. you’re lookin. at guy who’s average or above average in a few categories, but doesn’t really have the tools to be elite in any.

            also, if you’re gonna trade a superstar like Stanton or trout or Harper, etc, you better damn we’ll be sure you’re getting a superstar back or at the very least two or three guys with the potential to be. it’s not that difficult to find an 80r/80rbi 20 homer OFer like conforto, whereas there are only really 1 or 2 others with the power potential that Stanton has.

            what do you think Vv is, long term? if you really think he’s a top 5-20 SP overall, maybe it’s worth it, otherwise not close, imo.

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