Best Marlins Player (2011)

Mike Stanton

The ball exploded off the bat with a crack like a car wreck and then traced a ballistic trajectory over the outfielders' heads. It screamed like a bullet until a scoreboard some 500 feet from home finally got in the way and earned a crater-size dent for its effort. Until he took the swing that authored that destructive missile of a homer, there was still some doubt about just how ready Mike Stanton might be for the Marlins' 2011 season. He was undoubtedly the brightest spot in the Fish's 2010 campaign, which saw beloved outfielder Cody Ross shipped to San Fran (where he promptly won a World Series), All-Star Dan Uggla traded to Atlanta, and franchise cornerstone Hanley Ramirez parked firmly in the doghouse for not running out fly balls. All Stanton did as a 20-year-old rookie, meanwhile, was bang 22 home runs (including a grand slam as his first-ever dinger), play killer defense in right, and knock in 58 runs. But when he missed most of the Grapefruit League this spring with a quadriceps strain, some observers worried he might face a sophomore slump as the premier power source in Sun Life Stadium. Or at least they did until his very first game on March 24, when he demolished that homer to center in his first plate appearance. And just for good measure, he hit another one out of the park in his next at-bat. Did we mention this kid just turned 21?

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