Stanton, Heyward set for Tuesday
It’s not by coincidence that the Marlins are bringing Mike Stanton to Lake Buena Vista instead of Viera on Tuesday.
There is intrigue to see two of the top three prospects in the big leagues on the same day. So the Marlins are bringing their young phenom to face the Braves, who feature one of the brightest young talents the game has seen in years, Jason Heyward.
The Marlins have a split-squad day on Tuesday. Half the club is facing the Braves, while the other is taking on the Nationals.
According to MLB.com’s Top 50 Prospects, compiled by Jonathan Mayo, Heyward is the No. 1 prospect in the game, while Stanton ranks third. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals is second.
Both Stanton and Heyward are 20-years-old. Both were taken in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, and both play right field. A difference is Heyward bats left-handed, while Stanton hits from the right side.
Stanton has been the talk of Marlins camp, showing flashes of his power potential. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound former high school football, baseball and basketball star, connected on his third Grapefruit League home run on Monday. Stanton lifted an opposite field shot off Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano.
All three of his blasts have been off big league pitchers. He also had an opposite-field liner off Bobby Parnell of the Mets, and a monster drive to left off Wandy Rodriguez of the Astros.
Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez says he frequently jokes with Stanton about Heyward.
“I say, ‘Hey, you’re the No. 3 prospect. Heyward is the No. 1 prospect in the Minor Leagues,’ ” Gonzalez said. “Early in camp, we were kind of taking it easy with Stanton because of his shoulder. I said, ‘Heyward played again today.’ “
Gonzalez says he hasn’t ruled out keeping Stanton on the Opening Day roster. However, the odds are pretty strong that he will open in Double-A Jacksonville, and remain there at least a couple of months. A realistic callup date is about June 1. Don’t discount the fact that the longer Stanton remains in the Minor Leagues, he prolongs starting his arbitration clock.
However, if he is tearing it up in the Minor Leagues, and there is a need on the big league club, the Marlins wouldn’t rule out an earlier promotion.
What’s impressed Gonzalez most about Stanton is his character.
“When you’re dealing with young players, they have a tendency not to be focused,” Gonzalez said. “To me, the way he has handled himself, he came in here trying to take someone’s job. He didn’t come here to just get looked at. This guy came in here looking to get someone’s job.”
First base coach Dave Collins is so impressed by Stanton, he told Gonzalez: “This guy may hit 25 homers and drive in 90 just trying to figure it out in the big leagues.”
According to Gonzalez, Stanton’s makeup is “off the charts.”
In 2007, the Marlins actually had a chance to select Heyward. If they hadd, they could have had both of the young sluggers.
Heyward was the 14th overall pick, and Stanton was picked in the second round. With the 12th pick, Florida went with third baseman Matt Dominguez.
So what happened in 2007?
Even though the possibility existed to take Heyward, the reality is he may not have been an option, after all.
There were a couple of issues with Heyward at the time. Word around the league was the McDonough, Ga., native badly wanted to sign with the Braves, and wouldn’t sign with anyone else. The feeling was if another team picked him, he would opt for college. So signability was a concern.
From a technical, playing standpoint, there were some minor concerns about Heyward’s swing.
Heyward ended up signing for $1.7 million, which was for above the slot for that year. Dominguez, meanwhile, signed for $1.8 million.
Looking on it now, Stanton was a bargain. His bonus was $475,000.
– Joe Frisaro
(Photo courtesy of Denis Bancroft/Florida Marlins)