I know this sounds like a broken record, but the Miami Marlins will only go as far as outfielder Giancarlo Stanton can take them. With a new season about to embark on Spring Training and the nucleus of a roster returning for yet another season, all eyes in south Florida will be focused on No. 27.
Talk about pressure. When Stanton is healthy, he is one of the most feared power hitters in all of baseball. When he is injured, the Marlins are left with a hole in the lineup they cannot fill. While injuires to Stanton were a problem last season, the time on the shelf allowed Ichiro Suzuki to chase history, reaching 3,000 hits. This season, Stanton will need to be healthy, consistent and a leader in the field, at the plate and in the dugout.
As Joe Frisaro of MLB.com points out, Stanton’s power has led to some of the longest home runs hit in the majors last season.
“In 2016, the Marlins' right fielder crushed the longest home run ever projected by Statcast™, a 504-foot blast off Chad Bettis at Colorado on Aug. 6,” Frisaro writes.
“At the Home Run Derby at Petco Park, Stanton stole the show in San Diego, taking home the title with a record-setting 61 drives that cleared the outfield wall. The awe-inspiring performance served as another reminder of the brute force that Stanton brings to the sport.”
The long ball still remains a favorite of fans who come to the ballpark. If Stanton finds his groove again, it could be a stellar season for the right fielder. The Marlins and MLB as a whole hope so.
"I think he's a better hitter than what he showed," manager Don Mattingly said. "He still hits 27 [homers], you know, and is one of our top RBI guys without the games played."
In 119 games last year, Stanton's 1.7 WAR was his lowest since 2.6 in 2013 when he played in 116 games.
Stanton's year also was interrupted by a Grade 3 left groin strain on Aug. 13, which caused him to miss three weeks. Initially, the fear was he'd be out the rest of the season because the recommended recovery time was between four and six weeks.
The fact Miami has changed its coaching staff, replacing Barry Bonds with Mike Pagliarulo as hitting instructor could also have a positive impact on Stanton. There were reports out of Miami the teacher and the student did not always see eye to eye.
Stanton finished with a slash line of .240/.326/.489, along with 27 home runs and 74 RBIs. The 27-year-old had career lows in batting average and on-base percentage, and the only season with a lower slugging percentage was in 2013 (.480), and his strikeout percentage was 29.8.
The Marlins open Spring Training on Tuesday with pitchers and catchers' workouts at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla., and full-squad practices get underway on Feb. 17.