Stanton in mix to make roster

Production may overtake patience when it comes to deciding if Mike Stanton is big league ready.

The way the Marlins 20-year-old outfield slugger is performing has the Marlins considering carrying him on their Opening Day roster.

stanton1z.JPG“Funnier things have happened,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Obviously, we’ll sit down and make sure it’s the right move, the right decision. But for me to say, “absolutely not,” I can’t do that right now. I can’t say that he’s not going to make the team. I can’t absolutely tell you, 100 percent that he won’t. We’ll sit down and decide how that plays out.”

There is a temptation to promote Stanton right now, especially after the way he’s produced. On Wednesday against the Astros in Kissimmee, the right fielder crushed a two-run homer off Wandy Rodriguez and he added an RBI groundout. Overall, he is batting .333 with two home runs and five RBIs.

Another factor are some health issues in the outfield. Cameron Maybin and Cody Ross have been nursing left groin strains. If say, Maybin, is slowed down to the point where he isn’t going to be either ready — physically or performance wise — then Ross could move to center field. In that scenario, Stanton could factor in playing right field.

“There are a lot of guys who came up in the big leagues as 19 and 20 year olds who have had Hall of Fame careers,” Gonzalez said. “I’m not ruling that he’s not going to make the team.”

From an organizational standpoint, the plan entering Spring Training has been to start off Stanton in Double-A, where he had 299 at-bats in 2009.

For the Marlins to promote Stanton this quickly, a number of factors must be addressed.

“Generally players will tell you when they’re ready or not,” Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. “I know that he’s looked good. It’s hard not to love him, and look at what he can do in his future. But we’ve got to do what’s best for him. Is the breaking ball recognition and all the things that we want him to be confident in, are they ready to go?”

There are some health issues, too. In the Arizona Fall League, Stanton was sent home with lower back stiffness. And he’s had an issue with his left shoulder, which is repeatedly iced after games.

Then there is the fact that in 299 at-bats at Jacksonville last year he hit .231, although he had 16 homers and 53 RBIs.

“There are a couple of things with Mike. He didn’t dominate in Double-A,” Beinfest said. “Then he’s had a little bit of an injury issue. We wanted to make sure that he’s strong, and he feels good. The rigors in the Major Leagues are tough on these guys. He’s had some shoulder things off and on. We want to make sure that he’s healthy, first and foremost. We want to make sure that he’s comfortable.”

The Marlins have had a strong track record of promoting young players. In 2003, Dontrelle Willis was 21 when he was called up from Double-A, and Miguel Cabrera was 20 that same year.

“How did we know when Dontrelle and Miguel were ready?” Beinfest said. “Or Hanley [Ramirez] and those guys in ’06. Sometimes you are right, and sometimes you’re wrong. Generally, they’ll tell you.”

One thing that is clear is Stanton projects to be in the big leagues, at least some point in 2010.

“It’s all coming. He really wants to do well,” Beinfest said. “He’s a great kid. He’s a student of the game. He’s learning very quickly. His learning curve is shorter than the other guys. He’s getting it. There are a lot of positives. Let him keep playing, and we’ll see what happens.”

Would the Marlins rule out Stanton being on the Opening Day roster?

“We never do,” Beinfest said.

– Joe Frisaro

 

 

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