Stanton ready to sparkle on grand stage
Outfielder could be breakout star at Home Run Derby, Midsummer Classic
NEW YORK -- The transformation of Giancarlo Stanton from slugger to superstar continues.
Those who follow the Marlins have seen the emergence on a daily basis. Next week, Stanton will showcase his skills to a worldwide audience.
One of the game's most imposing figures, Stanton could be double trouble for the American League.
With power that is second to none in the game, Stanton paces the NL in home runs (21) and RBIs (63). He's also raised his all-around game, batting .299 with a .396 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage.
"From Spring Training on, what you've been able to see is a guy with a lot of drive and a lot of focus," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "You see him smiling and he's happy."
Fans will see plenty of Stanton during All-Star Week. Even though Stanton wasn't voted in as a starting outfielder, he is expected to be All-Star manager Mike Matheny's choice as designated hitter.
Coming up short in the fan voting was somewhat disappointing for Stanton, who naturally would have liked to have been rewarded for his hard work, but he's not letting it bother him.
"I really don't care," Stanton said. "At the end of the day, there is a small group of people who know who should be there."
Prior to his big first half, Stanton has had name recognition, even if some still get confused by his first name. When he broke into the big leagues in 2010, he went by his middle name, Mike. Two years ago, he made the switch.
Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton is his full name, with Giancarlo pronounced, Zhon-Carlo. Several teammates and friends still call him Mike. When signing autographs, Stanton scribbles, "Mike."
The Marlins picked Stanton in the second round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Since his MLB debut on June 8, 2010, he has hit the third-most home runs in the Majors. Only Miguel Cabrera (153) and Jose Bautista (151) have hit more homers than Stanton's 138.
Stanton understands market size and popularity factor into All-Star decisions.
"It's about making money. It's about keeping people happy," Stanton said. "You can't always keep everyone happy, whether it's fair or unfair. It is what it is."
For the most part, the slugger doesn't say much. He lets his performance and others talk for him.
Miami, coming off a 100-loss season in 2013, has made tremendous strides, and Stanton is one of the primary factors in that resurgence. He is the face of the franchise, and potentially one of the young faces of the game.
Marlins veteran Jeff Baker has seen plenty of strong starts through the years. He said Stanton's first half of the season ranks with some of the best.
"For one, he's doing it in our park, and the numbers he is putting up there. [And No.] 2, the amount of RBIs [he has]," Baker said. "People know who he is. He's a known commodity in the league, and he's still getting his RBIs. His first half has been unbelievable."
Stanton's signature shot this season was at home, and it measured 484 feet, according to ESPN's Home Run Tracker. The only drive in the Majors measured longer was a Mike Trout blast that went 489 feet.
But in terms of average home run distance, Stanton leads Majors at 423.8 feet per shot.
Stanton at-bats have long been "must-see," because you never know what he might do.
Against Jason Hammel, who was then with the Cubs, Stanton delivered an awe-inspiring moment on a homer estimated at 366 feet. What impressed was the ball seemed to defy gravity. It was a low liner to right that kept going near the foul pole.
"It was ridiculous," closer Steve Cishek said. "Whoever was playing first base that day almost jumped up and caught it."
From the bullpen, reliever A.J. Ramos, Stanton's buddy, was yelling, "Run!"
"We were thinking it would maybe be a double," Cishek said. "All of a sudden, you see the umpire giving the [home run] wave."