Is Giancarlo Stanton a sell high candidate?

Whatever Giancarlo Stanton hits, he destroys. (USATSI)
Whatever Giancarlo Stanton hits, he destroys. (USATSI)

Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton continues to murder baseballs. While his talent has never been a question, the outfielder entered the year with some concerns. After a ridiculous 2012, Stanton's numbers dropped in 2013. Injuries, poor lineup protection and a high strikeout rate all seemed to play a role in his undoing. Now that he's cast most of those doubts aside, it's time to wonder whether he can sustain this level of production all season.

Power has never been a problem for Stanton, so the fact that he's leading the National League in home runs shouldn't come as a surprise. What may throw Fantasy owners for a loop is his .294 batting average. Stanton isn't typically considered a high average hitter, mainly due to his high strikeout numbers. Those issues are still present this year. Stanton is currently striking out in 27.6 percent of his plate appearances. He struck out in 27.8 percent of his plate appearances last year. The main reason his average is so high is because he's had good luck on balls in play. His .354 BABIP is nearly 30 points higher than his career-average. 

It may not come as a big surprise, but Stanton's average does seem destined to take a tumble. However, it's important to note that he hit .290 in 2012 due to a high BABIP. While implausible, it's possible Stanton's true BABIP is higher than normal, or he hits the ball so hard that his strikeouts won't impact his BABIP. The latter scenario was often used to describe how Chris Davis hit .286 despite a 29.6 percent strikeout rate. We can't really prove that's a fact, and we don't know that it's sustainable. Davis' average has dropped to .250 this year despite posting nearly the same BABIP, though small sample caveats apply.

Let's assume the average falls. In Stanton's case, that's not really a bad thing. The power potential is so high that he'll be an incredibly valuable asset if he hits .260. On top of that, he's shown slightly better contact skills early on. Stanton is making contact, both in and out of the zone, at a higher rate this year. He's doing this despite seeing 39.3 percent of pitches in the strike zone, which is a career-low. Pitchers don't want to give him anything to hit, but it doesn't even matter. Stanton is punishing the ball no matter where it's thrown. 

What's the final verdict? Stanton's likely to see some batting average decline, though it's tough to really say how much. In a worse case scenario, he winds up hitting .260. If he does that, and hits 40+ home runs, he's still going to be extremely valuable. But given some small gains in his numbers, maybe he hits closer to .275. He might be playing a little over his head, but he's not someone Fantasy owners should be looking to sell high. If he stays healthy, he's going to mash.

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