|Near-Marlin Manny Ramirez||03.06.09 at 1:08 pm ET|
Hanley Ramirez did not make the trip to Fort Myers. The All-Star shortstop is playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, leaving the Marlins to bring a prospect-heavy but unfamiliar lineup for today’s game at City of Palms Park.
But at least one name might ring familiar.
The fifth hitter in Florida’s lineup today is Mike Stanton, ranked No. 16 in Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects. As an 18-year-old last year, the outfielder turned in an extraordinary year for Greensboro of the low Single-A South Atlantic League, hitting .293 with a .381 OBP, .611 slugging and a ridiculous 39 homers.
Stanton’s prospect stock rose to the point where he was rumored to be the centerpiece of a complicated three-way deal that would have sent Manny Ramirez to the Marlins, brought both Stanton and Jason Bay to the Sox and sent an assortment of players to Pittsburgh. A National League source, however, said that while the Marlins received plenty of inquiries about Stanton, he was never available in a deal, even for Ramirez. The potential was too great for Florida to contemplate parting with the outfielder.
Nonetheless, the Marlins did come close to acquiring Ramirez. How close?
“It was down to the wire. When was the (trade) deadline, 4pm? (My) cell phone (was) in the pocket while we were taking B.P.,” said Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez. “It was down to the wire. It was legit. … You have a chance to get that kind of bat in your lineup, of course (you get excited).”
Naturally, Stanton caught some wind of the rumors.
“I heard it was going to happen. I thought people were messing with me at first,” said Stanton, a second-round draft pick in 2007. “Then people kept bringing it up, so I thought it had to be somewhat true. But I was starting everyday. I wasn’t really trying to think about it. If there are too many things swirling in your head, it’s hard to play the game. Whatever’s going to happen, I’m going to let it happen and I’m going to play my game.
“(I) tried not to think too much of it. It didn’t go down when it all came down to it. All in all, it was really nothing. That’s how I took it unless it was actually happening.”
The non-trade didn’t seem to bother Stanton, whose exceptional season continued unabated after the trade deadline. In a Marlins organization that gives young players an opportunity to play everyday, he recognizes that he has a chance to reach the big leagues faster in Florida than might have been the case elsewhere.
“It’s an organization or great opportunities,” said Stanton. “If you handle your business right, come to the field ready and willing to learn, then you’ll move quickly.”
The 19-year-old is a non-roster invitee to big-league camp with the Marlins this spring. Already, he is making quite an impression with the coaching staff. This week, in an intrasquad game, he hit what one eye-witness described as 1,000 feet of homers (one to center, one to left) in two at-bats.
Marlins manager Gonzalez acknowledged how rare Stanton’s power is, but was just as excited about the player’s commitment to improve.
“(Stanton is a very) good player—not only in ability or talent, but also in the way he handles himself. Off the charts. Makeup, character, work habits—off the charts,” said Gonzalez. “Especially for a young kid that’s 19 or 20, there’s one thing in his mind, and that’s to be a major leaguer. There’s no distractions.
“Hopefully he keeps progressing the way he should,” said Gonzalez. “He’ll be knocking on the door here soon.”
Emilio Bonifacio, 3B
John Baker, C
Jeremy Hermida, LF
Wes Helms, 1B
Mike Stanton, CF
Cody Ross, RF
Cameron Maybin, DH
Chris Coghlan, 2B
Robert Andino, SS
Chris Volstad, SP
Josh Reddick, RF
Julio Lugo, SS
Jason Varitek, C
J.D. Drew, DH
Jeff Bailey, 1B
Jed Lowrie, 3B
Zach Daeges, LF
Chip Ambres, CF
Ivan Ochoa, 2B
Josh Beckett, SP
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