Giancarlo Stanton already looks destined for greatness. He regularly hits home runs further than the eye can see and is tied for tenth all-time with 154 home runs through his age-twenty-four season. Yet, there is a skill he possesses which few know about: speed.
Granted, Stanton wouldn't win a race against Dee Gordon, Juan Pierre or Emilio Bonifacio, but he stole thirteen bases in fourteen attempts last year. That was good for second-most on the team, trailing only Christian Yelich, who had twenty-one. The fact that pitchers and opposing teams primarily worry about damage to their cars in the parking lot from Stanton's moonshots could prove to be an advantage for the $325 million man.
In 2014, Stanton was on track to reach the forty home run mark for the first time in his career before the injury sustained in Milwaukee ended his season. He also had a shot to set both the single-season (Gary Sheffield set the bar with forty-two in 1996) and career (Dan Uggla and Stanton are both tied at 154) Marlins home run records. He ended the year with an NL leading thirty-seven. But 2015 is a new year. If Stanton can stay off of the DL and continue to hit like an MVP, forty homers should be an attainable figure.
Now, onto the steals. Stanton projects to have plenty of opportunities to steal bases. Last season, Stanton walked ninety-four times, and was intentionally walked on twenty-four occasions. With Michael Morse now batting behind him, the intentional walks may decline. However, pitchers will still be wary of Stanton and try not to throw balls over the plate. Therefore, the base-on-balls number should remain high. The winter addition of stolen base champion Dee Gordon could help further Stanton's growth. The second-baseman has been working on his own technique, namely feet-first sliding, during Spring Training with third-base coach Brett Butler.
Stanton understands the importance of stolen bases, and with so much base-stealing experience on the team, he could become even more of a nightmare for opposing pitchers. Simply observing Gordon in games and practice drills could be beneficial for the outfielder, but the pair has probably already had many conversations on the topic. Giancarlo Stanton has a tremendous work ethic, and if he feels something is achievable, he will achieve it. This is especially true when that something may help the Marlins win games, and steals can be invaluable. Small-ball is an under appreciated facet of the game and a big reason why the Royals got to the World Series last year.
Here are some notable forty home run, twenty steal seasons:
Hank Aaron (1963) - 44 HR, 31 SB
Barry Bonds (1996) - 42 HR, 40 SB
Alex Rodriguez (1998) - 42 HR, 46 SB
Aaron is a Hall of Famer, and the other two may well be elected into Cooperstown in the future (let's save the PEDs discussion for another time). If Stanton had a forty-twenty season, he would be mentioned in the same conversation as all-time greats in another category, other than just home runs. If he gains a reputation as a stolen base threat, there are two possible scenarios that could play out during the upcoming season. One scenario involves pitchers still walking Stanton, in the mindset that "at least he isn't scoring even more runs with his bat". The other scenario has pitchers cutting down on the walks and throwing more strikes to the slugger, with the right-fielder connecting on more home runs than before.
Either way, Stanton has unfinished business with that MVP trophy. It was taken away from him last year by Mike Fiers, and he won't be denied again. If Stanton stays healthy, he's is going to have a forty-twenty season, and a shiny trophy to go with it.