from Bill on Baseball at gsohoppers.com:
When the Florida Marlins open play in a new stadium in 2011, donâ€™t be surprised if Mike Stanton is in the lineup bashing home runs.
If that turns out to be the case â€“ and three-year projections in baseball can be murky at best â€“ then Edwin Rodriguez and John Duffy can sit back and smile.
Stanton is having a superb season with the Greensboro Grasshoppers â€“ a .289 average with 33 home runs and 84 RBIs as the team headed into its final 12 games of the season. But he came perilously close to not being able to finish the season here due to circumstances beyond his control.
When it became obvious that Manny Ramirez had finally worn out his welcome in Boston, the Florida Marlins became one of the teams interested in acquiring him. The hottest report had the Red Sox sending Manny to the Marlins for former Greensboro Bat Jeremy Hermida and Stanton. Depending on which report you believe, Boston would have then swapped Stanton, perhaps Hermida and another prospect to Pittsburgh for Jason Bay.
The Hoppers were on a road trip to Lake County when manager Rodriguez and pitching coach Duffy first heard Stantonâ€™s name in the trade talks. They quickly decided to take action. Duffy called the Marlinsâ€™ brass first and then Rodriguez did the same, both making the same impassioned plea.
â€œWe told them, â€˜listen, youâ€™re making a big mistake. This kid is going to be hitting fifth in 2011 when you guys open the new stadium. Donâ€™t go and do that,â€™â€ Rodriguez recalled.
Ultimately, the Marlins refused to include Stanton in any deal. The Red Sox ended up sending Ramirez to the Dodgers in a three-way trade that netted them Bay.
So, did Rodriguez and Duffy save the day?
â€œWeâ€™re not going to say we were the official difference-maker,â€ Rodriguez said, â€œbut they let us know after the trade was off that they took that into consideration.â€
That was at the end of July and Stanton has been on a tear in August, hitting .362 with six homers and 17 RBIs.
â€œI kind of didnâ€™t believe it in the beginning,â€ he said of hearing his name bandied about, â€œbut then it kind of panned out that it was true. I was a little nervous but it didnâ€™t bother me much. Itâ€™s business.â€
Why would the Marlins decide to keep the young prospect, who wonâ€™t turn 19 years old until November?
Because the power potential of this 6-foot-5 athlete is mind-boggling. None other than esteemed expert Peter Gammons of ESPN said Stanton was â€œmaybe one of the best five prospects in the minor leagues.â€
Stanton has already surpassed Greensboroâ€™s South Atlantic League record of 30 homers in a season, set by Jason Kinchen in 2001. (He wonâ€™t reach the all-time Greensboro record of 45, by Henry Parrish in 1929.) He has an outside shot at Russell Branyanâ€™s all-time SAL record of 40.
â€œIâ€™ve been playing baseball since I was 5 or 6,â€ Stanton said, â€œand could always hit the ball really far when I was little.â€
It turned out he could do other things well, too. Stanton was equally good in football, basketball and baseball and became a three-sport star at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. UCLA and Nevada-Las Vegas were interested in him for football, but he signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Southern Cal with a chance to walk on in football as a wide receiver-defensive back.
But the scenario changed when the Marlins made him their second-round draft pick last summer. He signed for a reported bonus of $475,000.
*****To read more on Mike Stanton go to Bill Hass on Baseball at gsohoppers.com and check out this and other works by Bill, long-time writer for the News and Record*****