Coming off of a year during which he was plagued by injuries and inconsistencies, Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton was confident he would be able to bounce back in 2014. Punctuated by a 484 foot home run against the San Diego Padres on Friday night, Stanton is off to a hot start, batting .345 with a .462 wOBA heading into Tuesday's contest against the Nationals.
While Stanton hasn't been outspoken about his future with Miami, it is no coincidence that with Stanton in the lineup for every game, the Marlins won both of their home series to begin the year. Protection for Stanton was a focal point over the offseason, and not including the lack of offense in a two run loss on Sunday, Casey McGehee and Garrett Jones have protected him well.
Stanton, a notoriously slow starter in the past, is locked in, motivated and producing what so many have expected. The 24-year-old right fielder enters Monday's off-day batting .345 (10-for-29) with three doubles, two home runs and 12 RBIs. He's already delivered four game-winning RBIs.
Stanton has also driven in a run in each of the seven games, which ties him with Cliff Floyd (2001) for the second-most consecutive games with an RBI to open a season in club history. A year ago, Stanton had nine RBIs total in April. Already in the month, he has 10. His first two came on Opening Night, played on March 31.
Throughout the offseason, questions of an extension were externally discussed. The belief is that Stanton wants to see progress before he considers being a Marlin long-term, and rightfully so. With the organization's history of massive fire sales, a young and talented player like Stanton shouldn't be obligated to remain a part of a losing team, and it is too soon to tell whether the 2014 Marlins will be exactly that.
Stanton's early success directly coincides with the productivity of the rest of the lineup. Adeiny Hechavarria, upon being placed in the leadoff spot, was consistently getting on base, and when Christian Yelich was leading off, he saw numerous pitches, even in at-bats that resulted in outs.
Marlins hitting coach Frank Menechino has preached utilizing the ball to all fields, and Stanton has done just that. His first home run of the season was to right field, and even when he got jammed like he did on Sunday afternoon, he has the ability to pull the ball just enough to get a hit.
Although Jones and McGehee have helped Stanton, the addition of Jarrod Saltalamacchia gives pitchers something to think about when considering what to throw to a hitter like Stanton.
Last year, Stanton had it in his mind that he wasn't going to see a lot to hit because of the lack of production. Miami's offseason moves make pitching around Stanton that much more difficult.
Whether he can be this successful throughout the course of the season remains to be seen. Many believe that a healthy Stanton could hit 40 home runs and drive in 100 runs. But his early approach and plate discipline have a lot to do with the number of runs the Marlins scored against the Rockies and Padres.