Staying Positive: Stanton vs. Cabrera


Look, there is no doubt that these are trying times for the Marlins. When a team gets on this sort of losing streak, there really is not much to be said.

“What’s going wrong?” someone might ask. The problem is, as is often the case, multifactorial. Yesterday night, for instance, the Marlins were involved in the game against the Los Angeles Angels. Anibal Sanchez kept the Angels at bay, and the teams were tied at one apiece into the eighth inning when Steve Cishek gave up what turned out to be the game-winning run. Combine that with a continued poor offensive performance, due to a combination of bad play and bad roster construction (counting on Emilio Bonifacio to lead off?) and you have the makings of another loss in a historical series of losses for the team.

So with things going as bad as they are right now, I figured here at Marlin Maniac, we should remain positive. Nothing but regression and Hanley Ramirez waking up can save this team from its current tailspin, but there are some good things to look into here and there, and today we will start by looking at two players who both came up at around the same age and started tearing it up immediately.

Player, last minors season PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Mike Stanton (Double-A) 240 .313 .442 .729 .495
Miguel Cabrera

(Double-A)

303 .365 .429 .609
Player, 1st season PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Mike Stanton 396 .259 .326 .507 .355
Miguel Cabrera 346 .268 .325 .468 .338
Player, 2nd season PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Mike Stanton 268 .247 .328 .532 .370
Miguel Cabrera 685 .294 .366 .512 .374

They might have gone about their gameplans in different ways, but the paths and early career successes in the majors have turned out to be very similar, and this is obviously a good sign for the Marlins.

Into the Peripherals

A look at their peripherals during the first and second years also yields an interesting look at these two players.

Player K% BB% XB/H ISO BABIP
Stanton 29.1 9.4 1.033 .263 .308
Cabrera 22.1 9.0 0.747 .212 .333

The two players had similar issues at the plate, issues that were exacerbated in Stanton’s case. Stanton’s strikeout rate is still very high, but the fact that it has dropped significantly since last season is a good sign for improvement in his play. Cabrera’s rates did not fall as much between years one and two, but they were lower to begin with. Both players showed similarties in walk rate, and it is imaginable that either hitter could hit in a BABIP range between .280-.330 given Stanton’s performance last season. Of course, Cabrera ended up being a career .344 hitter on balls in play, something that Stanton is not likely to develop.

The one difference between the two players is obviously in the power department. Cabrera eventually developed into a premium power hitter; last year, he recorded his highest career SLG and ISO at .622 and .294 respectively. However, at age 20 and in his first season in the majors, Uggla displayed simply “good” power, the sort of power you could expect to see from a Hanley Ramirez type of hitter. Mike Stanton is no Hanley Ramirez, and indeed there may not be a player with the sort of raw power that Stanton possesses. This season, his ISO has increased from .248 to .285 this year and it seems like the changes are legitimate; his HR/FB rate has actually decreased since last season. With the sort of development Cabrera eventually ended up making in terms of power, Stanton could become even more monstrous than we imagined given their similar pathways.

The Path

Cabrera had one major problem that hindered his early career: he was an awful defender at pretty much every position the Marlins played him. He spent most of his early career playing right and left field before being moved to third base full time in his fourth season. By UZR, he was worth -20 runs in his first two full-time seasons in the outfield, and TotalZone generally agrees, putting him at -23 runs during that time. The benefit for Stanton is that he is actually a good outfielder, one with an excellent arm and solid range. UZR had him at +9 last season and -1 this year, while TotalZone had him at +15 (!) last year and +6 this season. Here are how those first two seasons compared in terms of fWAR:

Season Stanton Cabrera
First 2.9 1.3
Second 1.5 2.8

Cabrera eventually improved enough to be merely a bad player on the field at third base rather than an atrocity in the outfield, but Stanton has the capability to play excellent defense at a position he is locked into for the next few seasons. He is already an even hitter with Cabrera, but even +5-run defense at the position would yield a half-win advantage over a mediocre defender at third base like Cabrera in his 2005-2007 seasons. In those seasons, Cabrera had developed into a .400 or so wOBA hitter. If Stanton can come close to or match that total, he will blow past Cabrera with his excellent defense, and Cabrera was worth 18.0 fWAR in those three seasons. Amidst the rubble that has been this rough month, Marlins fans should realize that they are watching something special with Stanton, a player that could one day eclipse one of the best to put on a Marlins uniform.

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Tags: Miami Marlins Miguel Cabrera Mike Stanton

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