Stanton's home debut highly anticipated
Marlins rookie slugger set for Sun Life Stadium on Tuesday
MIAMI -- A week may not make a career, but there were plenty of encouraging signs to show that Mike Stanton certainly belongs.
The Marlins' 20-year-old slugger is making a rather seamless transition to the big leagues. He's showing plate discipline, a knack for big hits and the composure of someone who has played the game for a while.
What Stanton has yet to experience is what he was known for in the Minor Leagues -- home runs. In 19 at-bats, he has yet to blast the ball out of the park. Still, bursts of power have flashed in his game. He has a double, triple and four RBIs to go along with a .368 batting average and a .455 on-base percentage.
"It was pretty productive. I'm learning a lot still, but I'm fine with it," the rookie right fielder said. "There's always room for improvement. But I guess I'm satisfied with the first week -- just keep pushing forward."
After belting 21 home runs in 52 games at Double-A Jacksonville, Stanton debuted last Tuesday at Philadelphia, collecting three singles in his first game. Against Tampa Bay this weekend, he collected four RBIs.
"He did fine. We won three games with him, and we could have won four," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He got his feet wet. He got his at-bats, got his RBIs, played nice defense. He stole a bag. He did fine, he really did."
After experiencing a week on the road in the big leagues, Stanton is now primed to debut at home.
On Tuesday, for the first time, Stanton will play at Sun Life Stadium when the Marlins open their homestand against the Rangers. Stanton jerseys can be customized at www.marlins.com.
For months, the Marlins and their fans have anticipated the arrival of one of the organization's most touted prospects. You have to go back to Miguel Cabrera in 2003, when he was also 20, to find a homegrown Florida product to receive so much fanfare.
"There is a lot of hype around him," second baseman Dan Uggla said recently of Stanton. "I think he's going to be fine. He's a very humble kid with a huge amount of talent. I think he's going to continue to work hard and help us out."
With such great size and power, Stanton's skill set is obvious. Like any young player, he will go through an adjustment with the league. No much how much raw ability any player has, there is a learning curve in the big leagues.
The general feeling with Stanton is, even as he is figuring out the league, he still can do a lot of damage.
"There are a couple of things that Major Leaguers react to," Gonzalez said. "Power is one. Pure speed is the other -- when you see a guy going, and everyone is up off the bench.
"He has the power, and the short swing -- the real, real short swing. Sometimes those guys with those long swings have a tendency to have moving parts. It's hard to get the timing. His swing is so compact and short. I don't see a lot of maintenance in that swing."
Thus far, Stanton's power hasn't translated into home runs. But the way the ball jumps off his bat already is evident. At Philadelphia in his debut, he ripped a hard liner to right field that went for a single.
He also faced Philadelphia's Roy Halladay, which exposed him to one of the best in the game.
"That's what I wanted to have the first week," Stanton said. "[The pitching] is not going to get any better, you know. No better competition. I think that was good for me.
"I've had the biggest crowds and the best pitching staffs combined. It's gotten me comfortable for the weeks ahead."
On Friday against the Rays, he scorched a liner to right-center for a triple. And he ripped a double to right.
If Stanton keeps his swing short, and shows the type of plate discipline that he did at Jacksonville, it's a matter of time before the home runs start coming.
Gonzalez was certainly impressed with Stanton's approach in his MLB debut. In his first at-bat, he took the first two pitches he saw, before working the count full. He ended up with an infield single off the Phillies' Kyle Kendrick.
"His first day in the big leagues, when we were in Philly, I saw him take pitches like he was around in the big leagues for 15 years," Gonzalez said. "I was wondering, 'Does he want to swing the bat, or does he really have a good eye?'
"It was -- ball, ball. I know if they had thrown the rosin bag, I would have swung in my first at-bat in the big leagues."
With a strong work ethic, Stanton is striving to be more than just a home run threat.
At Sun Life Stadium, that will be a plus, since the ballpark is so spacious.
Over time, Stanton has the makings of being a fan favorite. For now, though, he is treating his home opener like any other game.
"I've already played enough. If they give me a good ovation, then that's cool," Stanton said. "If not, it's just like any other day."
Traditionally, home runs at home have been hard to come by for every slugger who has played in Miami.
The franchise record for home runs in a season is 42 by Gary Sheffield in 1996. In that year, Sheffield connected on 19 at home.
Miguel Cabrera in 2007 connected on 34 home runs (second most by a Marlin). He also had 19 in Miami that season. However, it was the only year of Cabrera's three 30-plus home runs campaigns in which he homered more at home than on the road.
Uggla, who projects to become the Marlins' all-time home run leader some time this season, has three straight years with at least 30 homers.
In 2009, Uggla belted 31 homers, with a franchise-record 21 in Miami.
How Stanton's power emerges at Sun Life Stadium remains to be seen. With his kind of power, the ballpark shouldn't hold him down.
Fans will get a chance to observe him in batting practice, where he has the potential to blast 480-foot shots. However, his objective in BP is to improve his entire game at the plate -- not just focus on home runs. So those watching him in the cage should expect to also see him spray balls to right field and work on other aspects of hitting.
For the most part, Stanton doesn't like to put on a home run show in batting practice.
"Not really, but every once in a while, you've got to let loose a little bit," Stanton said.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.