Giancarlo Stanton

How good can Giancarlo Stanton be?

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Despite a right knee injury that kept him out of 25 games between July and August, and a September strained oblique that cost him nine games, Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton still hit 37 home runs. While the Marlins began pawning off parts of their roster, sending Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers, Stanton became an offensive tour de force in the National League. His .608 slugging percentage paced the league and he hit his 90th career home run on September 11, becoming the first player to reach the 90-homer plateau before his 22nd birthday since Alex Rodriguez in 1998. You have to go all the way back to 1980, Atlanta’s Bob Horner, before you find another player who accomplished the feat.

Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projection system, featured at FanGraphs, has Stanton hitting 41 home runs with a .286 average, .367 on-base percentage, and .606 slugging percentage during the 2013 season. Only Joey Votto, by virtue of a significantly higher on-base percentage (.423) is expected to match Stanton offensively.

The Marlins, overall, are still expected to host one of baseball’s worst offenses regardless of Stanton’s presence in the lineup. As a result, the RBI’s may come in even fewer bunches, but Stanton still has the opportunity to stand out. 2012 saw no players cross the 1.000 OPS line (Miguel Cabrera just missed at .999) and 2011 saw only two (Jose Bautista and Cabrera), but with Stanton projected at .973, there is a very real possibility he joins the crowd.

Most impressively, though, Stanton is showing progress on defense and on the base paths. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes:

There are also signs of improvement in the field, as he is getting terrific jumps and showing range to make catches on balls hit into the gap.

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“He’s a special player,” manager Mike Redmond said. “He can throw. He can play defense. He hits. He hits for power. He does it all. He’s a five-tool guy.

Not exactly a speed demon, Stanton stole six bases in eight attempts last year and played average defense in right while displaying an incredibly strong arm. He has to be considered one of the five National Leaguers most likely to take home the MVP award when the season is over, along with Votto, Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, and Bryce Harper.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.