Stanton's bat, health keys for Marlins' success

Slugger again looking to bounce back from injury-plagued season

Stanton's bat, health keys for Marlins' success

With Spring Training fast approaching, will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Marlins squad each day this week. Today's topic: How's your star?

MIAMI -- Few hitters impact the baseball quite the way Giancarlo Stanton does when he makes solid contact. In 2016, the Marlins' right fielder crushed the longest home run ever projected by Statcast™, a 504-foot blast off Chad Bettis at Colorado on Aug. 6.

At the Home Run Derby at Petco Park, Stanton stole the show in San Diego, taking home the title with a record-setting 61 drives that cleared the outfield wall. The awe-inspiring performance served as another reminder of the brute force that Stanton brings to the sport.

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But overall, it was a disappointing 2016 for Stanton, a year marred by injury and inconsistency.

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Stanton finished with a slash line of .240/.326/.489, along with 27 home runs and 74 RBIs. The 27-year-old had career lows in batting average and on-base percentage, and the only season with a lower slugging percentage was in 2013 (.480), and his strikeout percentage was 29.8.

The Marlins open Spring Training on Tuesday with pitchers and catchers' workouts at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla., and full-squad practices get underway on Feb. 17.

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If Miami is to make a serious playoff push in 2017, Stanton must regain his All-Star form.

"I think he's a better hitter than what he showed," manager Don Mattingly said. "He still hits 27 [homers], you know, and is one of our top RBI guys without the games played."

In 119 games last year, Stanton's 1.7 WAR was his lowest since 2.6 in 2013 when he played in 116 games.

Stanton's year also was interrupted by a Grade 3 left groin strain on Aug. 13, which caused him to miss three weeks. Initially, the fear was he'd be out the rest of the season because the recommended recovery time was between four and six weeks.

But Stanton was determined to work his way back onto the field, and he returned after the first week of September. At first, his role was mainly as a pinch-hitter, but by the end of the month he was in right field.

Stanton singles in return

Projected to bat fourth, Stanton is one of the most feared hitters in the game. With 208 career home runs, he's already the Marlins' franchise leader in that category.

Since breaking into the big leagues at age 20 in 2010, Stanton's 208 homers are seventh most in the Majors. In that span, Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays has the most with 249.

And since his rookie season, Stanton's 27 WAR is sixth among all big league outfielders, according to Fangraphs.

"I think there is a better hitter in there with a more consistent approach," Mattingly said. "I think he should be closer to a .270, .280, with less strikeouts and just being a tougher out on a daily basis. I think there is more there than what we saw last year."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.