The 2013 Miami Marlins had a standout player on the pitching side in Jose Fernandez, and if the Fish had their way, their standout position player would have also been top-notch. But while all the things bounced the Marlins' way with Fernandez, almost nothing bounced the right way with Giancarlo Stanton in 2013.
Giancarlo Stanton's 2013 performance was among the things that went wrong in 2013, but on first glance, that seems hard to believe. Stanton led the Marlins' position players in wOBA and Wins Above Replacement. He was one of only two players with more than 200 plate appearances with a batting line above league average. By all accounts, he seemed to be the best Marlins position player offensively.
But the problem with Stanton in 2013 is that, more than anyone else, he probably did the worst compared to his expectations. It may seem unfair to grade Stanton on a curve given the terrible play of the rest of the Marlins, but the Fish came into the 2013 season expecting more from him and were sorely disappointed. Various projection sources had Stanton hitting at an elite level entering the year; ZiPS, for example, expected a .286/.367/.606 (.407 wOBA) batting line this season, essentially a repeat of his breakout 2012 performance. Even if you just took his previous two seasons, during which he hit .275/.358/.570 (.392 wOBA), you would have expected big things coming from Stanton this season.
Instead, injuries and adjustments wrecked his year irretrievably. Stanton suffered through another slow month of April, and just when it seemed he was beginning to break out of the month-long slump, he sprained his right hamstring running the bases and missed about a month of playing time. When he returned, Stanton went on a few mini-tears that led to a two-month stretch of .270/.391/.541 (.403 wOBA) that at least seemed more reminiscent of the Stanton of old. Unfortunately, his final two months only yielded a .241/.353/.466 (.355 wOBA) more reminiscent of his rookie season if anything.
Stanton might have struggled with adjusting to pitchers throwing him fewer strikes than ever before, but he certainyl started to improve as the season went along. After all, his walk rate jumped to an all-time high at 14.7 percent. But while the perception of his entire being bad is wrong, he has been worse for wear perhaps due to the way pitchers have been throwing to him. A look at their approach revealed that he is hitting fewer fly balls this year than he did in similar pitches in the zone last season. That could be contributing to his difficulty with power, and it may also have something to do with his ongoing adjustment to the way pitchers are throwing to him.
We can and will break down more of Stanton's stats later this month, but the bottom line is that he struggled in 2013, and that also does not bode well for the future. Just like with Fernandez promising hope for 2014 and beyond, Stanton's puzzling and poor performance this year portends bad things for the future. He is already a player with a clear flaw, albeit a flaw that is already improving over the course of multiple seasons. His meal ticket is power, and while he certainly still flashed it this year, the overall lack of power in 2013 is a scary sign of things to come. Stanton simply cannot be an effective player without more home runs and more strength, and for the first time in his career, there are questions regarding that.