Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Even fellow big leaguers sound a bit like goggle-eyed fans when talking about Giancarlo Stanton and the next phase of the prolific slugger's career -- calling Yankee Stadium home. And veteran baseball folks barely blink when producing outsized predictions about Stanton's potential in the Bronx, in that Yankee lineup, in that homer-friendly ballpark.
That, plus the intrigue over whether Stanton can avoid injury, learn to navigate the New York fishbowl, and cope with expectations as towering as some of his home runs, makes him a must-watch this season. The best home run hitter added to a team that perhaps surprised by getting within one game of the World Series last year? That'll draw eyeballs.
It all starts when Stanton reports to Yankee camp this weekend and the club has its first full-squad workout on Monday. While folks in Tampa will have an up-close look, the curiosity about Stanton in pinstripes extends to other camps and opposing team's corridors of power.
"With him, everything is real," says a front-office executive with another team. "The ability and imagining that kind of power added into that park -- he's got power foul pole to foul pole and with his power, there'll be popups that go out of that ballpark…He should be a 50-homer guy again.
"You feel very good if you're in the Yankees' shoes."
Stanton, 28, hit 59 homers and had a 1.007 OPS for the Miami Marlins last season. Marlins Park, home run numbers show, isn't as friendly to sluggers as Yankee Stadium. And now Stanton will be in the same lineup as fellow 50-homer man Aaron Judge.
"He was playing in Miami and he did what he did," Mets outfielder Jay Bruce says of Stanton. "Him and Judge there, I don't think you can really put any expectations on it.
"This guy is one of the most prolific home run hitters of our generation. I think health is always a key for him, if he can stay healthy. I think being in the American League is going to aid him in doing that because he can mix in those DH days."
Adds Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki: "He made Marlins Park look pretty small and that's hard to do. It'll be interesting to see where some of his balls end up at Yankee Stadium. Hopefully, when we play them, we'll keep it down."
If Stanton does stay healthy, who knows what he can accomplish? But while he played 162 games last season, it was only the third time in his eight seasons he's appeared in 145 games or more. He must figure out new pitchers, a different league.
Stanton is also coming to a new, bigger city. He'll be on the game's most-celebrated team, one that gets much more attention than the Marlins, no matter what Derek Jeter's ownership group is up to in Miami. There'll be more off-the-field interest about him, too.
Plus, the Yankees are no longer cuddly upstarts after last season -- they're expected to do even more October damage in 2018. If they're losing, will Stanton, the big off-season acquisition, feel the big town's glare?
"The only thing is, the expectations," says the executive, whose club did due diligence on Stanton before the Yankees acquired him in an off-season trade with Miami. "That's foreign territory.
"Does he have the makeup (to handle it)? Of course he does. But it's still New York and not something he's gone through yet. There's a lot of good players on that team, but he's going to be the guy. If they win, he's doing what he's supposed to be doing. If they lose…"
Plawecki notes that Stanton's chase for the 60-home run mark drew attention. "He's used to that spotlight," Plawecki says. "So I think when he gets to New York, he'll be able to handle it pretty well. Every time I've had encounters with him, he's super down-to-earth. He won't get caught up in the fame."
Paul Goldschmidt, the Arizona Diamondbacks All-Star first baseman, played with Stanton on Team USA during the 2017 World Baseball Classic, and echoes Plawecki.
"That was pretty big, playing for our country," Goldschmidt says. "You think about the big games, the Yankees playing on national TV, New York City -- from what I could tell, he loved the WBC and how big it was. I think he'll enjoy that part of (being a Yankee). Who doesn't love that attention? They have the chance to go to the playoffs every year -- that's what every player is trying to do. It'll be fun to watch him."
And to count the home runs. An opposing scout who has watched Stanton agreed with the executive that Stanton will reach the half-century mark again, saying, "He's in his prime years. He's athletic. I don't see any reason why not, as long as he stays healthy."
Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections pegs Stanton to hit 55 homers, though Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections forecasts "only" 41 homers.
But homers aren't the only skill Stanton has, Bruce says.
"He's a really great all-around player," the Mets slugger says. "I think people get a little mesmerized by his home run ability. But he's an asset on both sides of the ball, in my opinion. He's a lot of fun to watch.
"We're going to hear plenty about him, being over on the other side of town. I look forward to watching him, man, and look forward to competing against him. He's someone who is fun to watch.
"He's a showstopper, for sure."