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Gettin’ it done on both ends

June 7, 2010

“First in war, first in peace and last in the American League.” ‘Twas the old joke about the Washington Senators. For the Nationals, just change it up a bit; change “American League” to “National League” and add “first in hype.” Tomorrow in Washington, said hype will come to fruition.

In a move that couldn’t have been much easier to plan, the Nationals scheduled their lord and savior Stephen Strasburg to make his much ballyhooed MLB debut at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The conversation must’ve gone something like this:

“Well, Strasburg’s a-comin, when do you think he should be brought up?”
“How about when the Pirates come to town?”
“Well, he has dominated Minor League teams all season so I’m sure one more would be just fine.”
Sorry, Bucs fans, I just couldn’t resist. The only other team I could have normally made that joke about is the Nationals, but Strasburg plays for them, and they had been playing respectable baseball up until recently.
So tune into tomorrow’s Bucs-Strasburgs game to see firsthand if all that Minor League dominance can translate into Four-A dominance (that’s the last one).
Strangely enough, baseball’s most highly-touted hitting prospect is also making his debut tomorrow. Florida’s Mike Stanton, not at all related to the former Major League stuck-around-far-too-long reliever of the same name. Likewise, he is not related to the collegiate diver, also of the same name.
Nay, this Mike Stanton, who was sent down to Double-A Jacksonville after Spring Training to “leave the Minors behind,” as Bobby Valentine says, has done more than just that. So far this season, Stanton has driven in 52 runs in 52 games to go along with 21 homers in a mere 190 at-bats. Impressive? Perhaps.
Stanton is projected to join the Marlins as their everyday right fielder, moving incumbent Cody Ross over to centerfield and booting Cameron Maybin out of the equation. Maybin, once the next big centerfielder and the centerpiece (no pun intended) of the Dontrelle Willis-Miguel Cabrera deal for the Marlins, was penciled in as Florida’s starting centerfielder for the second straight season but has not produced at the Major League level. A career .302 hitter in the Minors, Maybin is hitting a lame .225 this season after hitting .250 last year over two separate tours in the Majors.
The Marlins are now stuck at a crossroads after Stanton’s promotion: keep Maybin around as a fourth outfielder who will receive sparse playing time assuming they are keeping Stanton around for the long haul, or send Maybin down to get regular playing time in the Minors, as they did after he didn’t produce last year. The problem with sending Maybin down again is that he’s shown full well that he can hit Minor League pitching, especially after hitting .319 last year; it’s Major League pitching that he has to learn.
What the Marlins need to think about is their long-term plans for both Maybin and Ross. While Ross has shown consistently over the past many years is that he can produce in the Majors at a level good enough to compete and contribute, especially in the clutch. But it’s Maybin who is supposed to have the higher ceiling. If the Marlins plan on keeping Maybin around as their centerfielder of the future, it’s a better idea to keep him in his starting position in centerfield and put Ross back into the Scott Hairston-style fourth outfielder role that he used to play. Give Maybin the shot that Jeffrey Steinbrenner Loria will hopefully give Stanton: the opportunity to adjust to the Majors in an everyday role, regardless of production in the first few months/weeks/days (this is Loria we’re talking about). If they do, Maybin will hopefully live up to his potential after he’s fully acclimated, and all will be well in a Marlins outfield that would read: Coghlan, Maybin, Stanton.
However, if the Marlins are figuring on keeping Ross in there and playing the “feh” game with Maybin, the best plan for both Maybin and the Marlins is to either trade him for a prospect or two to a team looking for a centerfielder of the future, or send him down to the Minors to learn a new position, one that he can start at for the team in the future. The latter’s a bit radical, though; might just wanna stick with the former and trade the guy if that’s the direction they’re going in.
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