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.

[snip]

“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.

Video: Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran give signs from the dugout

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 23:  Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers stands in the dugout before their game against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 23, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The Rangers got a bit of a breather on Saturday after clinching the division lead during Friday night’s win. Naturally, it was also a prime opportunity for another of Adrian Beltre‘s well-documented antics, as he spent his off day directing the Rangers’ infield defense with a series of signs. Even with Carlos Beltran‘s help, no one, least of all those playing the infield, appeared to have any idea what Beltre’s gestures were intended to convey.

You can add this to the list of in-game oddities Beltre has become so well-known for over the years, running the gamut from the way he kicked a ball over the foul line to his histrionics every time someone comes close to touching his head. If nothing else, it’s a convincing audition reel for the third baseman’s future in major league coaching — a career path that, I’d imagine, would end up looking something like this:

Yordano Ventura exits game with back tightness

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on September 24, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
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Royals’ right-hander Yordano Ventura was pulled in the fifth inning of Saturday’s matinee against the Tigers with an apparent injury. After throwing four pitches to start the fifth and serving up a Justin Upton double, Ventura was visited on the mound by head trainer Nick Kenney. Per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, he’s day-to-day with back spasms and lower back tightness.

It’s just another bump in the road for the defending champions, who currently sit 6.5 games back of a postseason spot with seven left to play. Through 176 innings in 2016, Ventura posted a 4.35 ERA and 1.2 fWAR, a considerable downgrade from the 4.08 ERA and 2.7 fWAR he contributed during last season’s championship year despite a moderate bounce-back in the second half.

Prior to his early exit from Saturday’s game, Ventura went four innings for the Royals, giving up three runs on 10 hits and two walks and striking out six of 24 batters faced.