ASG debate: Stanton or Harper in outfield?
NL East sluggers both capable of Most Valuable Player Award seasons
*** We will be doing daily ASG debates until balloting ends on July 2. We will frequently be pitting one player against another and have a writer make a case for one of them, but that doesn't mean there aren't other great candidates for that position. In fact, your comments could spark a new debate for us to tackle. So let us know what you think! ***
One guy was baseball's (and all of American professional sports') first $325 million man. The other guy, for all we know, could be the next. They both can bash a baseball 500 feet, they both can single-handedly alter the National League East landscape and, simply put, they both make you feel good about the present and future of the game.
But if you had only one Esurance All-Star ballot vote to dole out to either Giancarlo Stanton or Bryce Harper, who would get the click?
It's gotta be Harper, right?
Maybe that answer wouldn't have been so obvious going into the season, because Stanton lodged an NL Most Valuable Player Award-worthy 2014 season before taking that unfortunate Mike Fiers fastball to the face last September. The Marlins were so positive not just about Stanton's recovery, but his long-term viability as the face of their franchise that they made an unprecedented financial commitment with him.
Harper, on the other hand, still had plenty to prove at this level. It wasn't just about living up to the flattering press and enormous pressures that preceded his 2012 NL Rookie of the Year Award-winning season, but living up to the task of staying healthy enough to finish a full season.
Well, we don't yet know if Harper is going to remain a lineup fixture or run himself into a wall and onto the disabled list. But what we do know is that his 2015 output, to date, has been the sort of thing scouts envisioned for him when he was still in his mid-teens.
Harper entered Tuesday with the NL lead in home runs (14), RBIs (37), walks (36), on-base percentage (.476), slugging percentage (.729) and total bases (97). He's shown great flair and great hair, with his post-homer hair flips quickly becoming his new calling card.
For Harper, this all comes down not just to health, but to plate discipline. His walk rate has skyrocketed, and he's put himself in better position to find pitches to drive. And boy, has he driven them.
Stanton, meanwhile, has had a 2015 season that thus far has been filled with fits and starts. As you might suspect, he has three of the five longest home runs measured by Statcast™ this season. But those prodigious power bursts aside, the MVP-caliber output we know Stanton is capable of hasn't revealed itself just yet for the man formerly known as Mike.
But while Stanton, with an .853 OPS, hasn't matched Harper's numbers, he's still one of the game's more complete packages -- a dynamic middle-of-the-order force (11 homers, six doubles, one triple) who can also impact the game defensively. As much as we love to focus on Stanton's bat, it wouldn't be a total shock if he gets some NL Gold Glove Award love at year's end.
But as far as All-Star vote worthiness is concerned, Harper has taken the early edge not just over Stanton, but over literally every single member of the NL field. His 2015 performance has been just that dynamic.
Of course, if you want to vote Stanton in an effort to aid the possibility of watching him in the Home Run Derby again, that's absolutely understandable.