Fantasy Baseball: What Should We Do With Giancarlo Stanton?

Can Giancarlo Stanton stay healthy in 2017 in order to once again be a fantasy baseball stud and one of the game's best power hitters?

Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins knows a thing or two about hitting baseballs further than anyone thought possible. After all, he did hit five miles worth of homers on his way to winning the 2016 Home Run Derby, but hasn't surpassed 37 dingers in a single season since debuting in 2010.

Some of that has to do with nagging injuries that have limited Stanton to just 193 games since the start of 2015, but what can fantasy baseball owners expect from the slugging outfielder in 2017?

In a Center Field Far, Far, Away

When Stanton is healthy and on the field, he's been a feared big league hitter. Over 2,980 career at-bats, he's slashed .266/.357/.539 with 208 home runs, hitting balls out of the park about once every 14 at-bats.

The 2015 season was especially impressive, as he somehow mashed 27 homers in just 279 at-bats (74 games played) before breaking a bone in his hand, which ultimately ended his campaign. He followed up that in 2016 with another 27 taters, but it took him 413 at-bats (119 games played) to accomplish it. While that was closer to his career average, what caused Stanton to mash at such a rapid pace in 2015? Can he get back to that elite power?

Let's take a look at his spray percentages for the past five years.

Season Pull% Cent% Oppo% HR Pull% HR Cent% HR Oppo% AB/HR
2012 45.6% 33.9% 20.5% 64.9% 27.0% 8.1% 13.54
2013 44.4% 36.0% 19.6% 50.0% 29.2% 20.8% 17.71
2014 42.6% 34.0% 23.5% 43.2% 32.4% 24.3% 14.57
2015 47.1% 31.0% 21.9% 55.6% 25.9% 18.5% 10.33
2016 40.4% 37.1% 22.5% 59.3% 22.2% 18.5% 15.30

One thing that stands out is Stanton's pull rate in 2012 and 2015. He pulled the ball the most in these two particular seasons and was hitting home runs more frequently than at any other time. A player's pull rate may not be significant, but given the size of Marlins Park and how it favors pitchers, an increase in pull rate for Stanton also increases the likelihood of hitting the dingers.

Hit it Where They're Not

Stanton has also run into some bad luck when putting balls in play.

Given the power he generates from his natural swing, Stanton doesn't usually hit balls softly. We can see below that he consistently hits the ball hard with a rather even ratio between ground balls and fly balls. Obviously, he typically enjoyed more fruitful seasons in the power department when his fly-ball rate outpaced his ground-ball rate.

Season BABIP Soft% Med% Hard% LD% GB% FB%
2012 .344 13.0% 42.7% 44.3% 22.1% 36.2% 41.7%
2013 .313 16.4% 44.8% 38.8% 18.2% 43.4% 38.5%
2014 .353 17.8% 41.8% 40.4% 19.7% 41.2% 39.1%
2015 .294 16.0% 34.2% 49.7% 20.3% 34.8% 44.9%
2016 .290 17.1% 40.0% 42.9% 16.7% 40.0% 43.3%

While Stanton's hard-hit rate has stayed consistently excellent, his line-drive rate has been decreasing, which doesn't help him much in with regard to BABIP. After seeing both his line-drive rate (15.6% to 18.6%) and hard-hit rate (39.9% to 48.0%) make sizable increases from the first half to the second half last season, it's not crazy to anticipate his BABIP to trend back toward the 2012-14 levels.

2017 Outlook

Entering his age-27 season, Stanton should be entering Spring Training fully healthy after suffering a groin injury last year. He'll have an offense around him similar to 2015, and he should get plenty of opportunities to knock in Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon on a regular basis. Provided that Marcell Ozuna provides some protection and doesn't fall off in the second half again, Stanton could finally be in for that career year we've been waiting for.

He's currently the consensus 36th overall ranked player according to Fantasy Pros, and the consensus 13th outfielder. If healthy, you can basically pencil him in for 30 home runs, along with a ceiling that's sky high. Given his ranking, he can be a catalyst for your fantasy baseball team, especially if he drops to the second or even third round.