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.

Travis d’Arnaud’s position in Wednesday’s box score read “3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B”

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The Mets had to scratch both Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores an hour before Wednesday’s game against the Yankees due to ribcage injuries, so Travis d'Arnaud — normally a catcher — borrowed David Wright‘s glove and played third base for the first time in his career. He had played some third base in spring training, but as far as an official professional game goes, he’s never been there.

The first two batters the Yankees sent up to the plate in the first inning were left-handed. But when the right-handed Aaron Judge came up, manager Terry Collins swapped second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera with d’Arnaud. It became a thing. The two swapped once more in the first inning, three times in the second, once in the third, five times in the fourth, once in the fifth, three times in the sixth, four times in the seventh, once in the eighth, and twice in the ninth. It worked, as d’Arnaud didn’t have an opportunity to make a play until catching Todd Frazier‘s pop-up for the first out of the ninth inning — as a second baseman. Cabrera had a handful of opportunities, including immediately after having swapped with d’Arnaud.

The Mets lost 5-3. At the plate, d’Arnaud went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly. Cabrera was 1-for-4.

Matt Reynolds and Gavin Cecchini are being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas so the Mets don’t have to do the “3B-2B shenanigans,” as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo put it, again.

John Lackey stole the first base of his career

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Cubs starter John Lackey stole the first base of his 15-year career on Wednesday against the Reds. Of course, he spent the first 11 and a half years of his career in the American League, where opportunities to bat, let alone attempt to steal a base, were rare. Lackey entered Wednesday having taken 250 plate appearances, reaching base just 31 times on 17 singles, seven doubles, and seven walks for a .134 on-base percentage. One can imagine the 38-year-old is not exactly the swiftest base runner.

Still, Lackey managed to swipe a bag in the fourth inning. He singled with two outs against Homer Bailey. Then, with an 0-1 count on Ben Zobrist, Lackey broke for second even before Bailey began his windup. Tucker Barnhart stood up to alert Bailey that Lackey was running, so Bailey wheeled around and threw to second base, but Lackey slid into the bag easily safe. It wasn’t a pretty slide, but it did the job.

Lackey, however, was picked off of second base by Barnhart later that inning. Bailey threw a 3-2 fastball wide of the strike zone, walking Zobrist. Lackey had wandered too far off of second base, so Barnhart threw behind Lackey and the tag was applied by Zack Cozart. Lackey was called safe initially. The play was reviewed and the ruling on the field was overturned, ending the fourth inning.

Base Ba’al giveth and Base Ba’al taketh away.