The Players Most Similar to Giancarlo Stanton…
by Paul Semendinger
(Originally published March 2, 2020, with an update at the end)
I am getting nervous about Giancarlo Stanton’s health and his prospects of being an elite hitter moving forward. His recent injury history gives me pause.
Unlike many fans, I like Stanton and I’m glad he’s on the team. I was overjoyed when the Yankees acquired him. (I always want the Yankees to grab the big star players. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.) That being said, I am concerned that he won’t be a productive player going forward. There is a school of thought that big power hitters like Stanton don’t always age well. Right now, at least since the start of last season, Stanton himself isn’t aging well. Let’s hope he gets healthy and puts up big numbers this year.
Still, I wanted to test the hypothesis about players like Giancarlo Stanton to see how well they aged. Baseball Reference (one of the very best sites on the whole Internet) has a feature for each player where they compare that player to the other players in baseball history whose careers are most similar.
Unfortunately for Giancarlo Stanton (and the Yankees), of the players most similar to Giancarlo Stanton more than a fair amount flamed out early. Many of these sluggers had careers with great promise, but their careers ended early and quite suddenly.
Let’s take a look at the list of the most similar players to Giancarlo Stanton thus far in his career:
Hank Sauer – It is kind of interesting that the most similar player to Giancarlo Stanton is one who disproves the whole hypothesis of why I investigated this topic for this article. Sauer played from 1941 through 1959. He was, pretty much, a full time player through his age 37 season (where he hit .288/41/103 in 1954).
Kevin Mitchell – Kevin Mitchell hit .327/30/77 in his age 32-season (1994). That was his last productive year.
J.D. Martinez – J.D. hit .304/36/105 last season as a 31-year old. He keeps raking and it seems he will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.
Jason Bay – In 2009, as a 30-year old, he hit .267/36/119. That was his last good year. He never even hit more than 12 homers again. He was out of the game at age 34.
Richie Sexton – In 2006, he hit .264/34/107. He was 31. It was his last good year. He was out of the game at age 33.
Bryce Harper – The player I wanted the Yankees to get. He’s an outlier as he’s still only 27-years old. Time will tell, but I think he’ll age well.
Jay Buhner – As a 32-year old, in 1997, he hit .243/40/109. He dropped off significantly after that, had a pretty good year at age 35 (.253/26/82) and was done after his age 36 season.
Gus Zernial – In 1953, as a 30-year old, Zernial hit .284/42/108. He’d never hit that well again. He stuck around until he was 36, but his last good year (.254/30/84) came when he was 32.
Geoff Jenkins – In 2007, at age 32, he hit .255/21/64. After his age 33 season, he was out of the game.
Josh Hamilton – In 2012, at age 31, he hit .285/43/128. The next year, at 32-years old, he hit .250/21/79. And that was the last of any good years from him. He was out of the game after his age 34 season.
The following players are the most similar to Giancarlo Stanton through their Age-29 season:
Rocky Colavito – The Rock had his last good year in 1966 when he was 32-years old (.238/30/72). After that, it was all down hill.
Jose Canseco – At age 34, he hit .279/34/95. He’d never approach those numbers again. He was done after his age 36 season.
Harmon Killebrew – The first Hall-of-Famer here, he played until he was 39. He was still productive through his age 36 season, although his last big year came when he was 34 (.271/41/113).
Darryl Strawberry – At 29-years old, he hit .265/28/99. Except for a resurgence with the Yankees in 1998, when he was 36 (.247/24/57), that age 29 season was his last good one.
Adam Dunn – He hit a lot of homers after, but the last time he hit above .220 was when he was 30-years old batting .260/38/103. He was out of the game after his age 34 season.
Reggie Jackson – A Hall-of-Famer…Reggie played until he was 41 and was still productive into his late 30’s. As a 36-year old, he hit .275/39/101.
Ralph Kiner – Another Hall-of-Famer, but his BIG years came in his 20’s. After his age-32 season, Kiner was out of the Major Leagues.
Jim Thome – Yet another Hall-of-Famer, Thome played into his 40’s and was productive through his mid-30’s.
Sammy Sosa – He hit 40 homers as a 34-year old, 35 homers as a 35-year old, and then was done after his age 36 season.
Shawn Green – While he hung around until he was 34, his big years came in his late 20’s, and he was pretty good through 32 years old.
Conclusion (2020) –
Twelve of the eighteen (67%) players (not counting J.D. Martinez and Bryce Harper) most similar to Giancarlo Stanton were basically done as productive players after their age 32 season. Giancarlo Stanton is now 30. He spent his age 29 season mostly injured. Thus far this year, in Spring Training, he is hurt. Can he get healthy? Of course. Can he remain a great hitter? Of course. Will he? Only time will tell.
It is concerning that so many of the players above, most of whom were big time stars for a period of time, did not have longevity. There are a host of reasons why many of these players didn’t last, but the bottom line is that so many had careers that did not last as long as one might have imagined when they were putting up their big numbers.
This exercise validates my concerns over Giancarlo Stanton and his ability to be an impact player long-term.
Get well soon Giancarlo!
Update 2023 -
In 2020 (Covid Year), Giancarlo Stanton played in just 23 games (out of 60). He batted .250/4/11. Translated over a full season, that would still be only a 28 home run season, not really great for a supposed superstar slugger. Stanton struck out 27 times in 23 games.
In 2021, Giancarlo Stanton, at age 31, had, most likely, his last productive season. He played in 139 games and batted .273/35/97. His OPS+ was 136. Stanton did strikeout 157 times in those 139 games.
Last year, 2022, it became clear that Stanton was done. For the season, he batted just .211/31/78. He played in only 110 games. But, worse were his second half numbers. As the Yankees fell apart, so did Giancarlo Stanton. He batted .151/7/17 in the season's second half. Stanton struck out 137 times in 110 games. His OPS+ fell to 113. The numbers, and the eye test told the same story. This was a player guessing, a lot, and not having success.
This year has been a disaster. In 2023, Giancarlo Stanton has appeared in 96 games. He has struck out 114 times. He is batting .190/24/58. His OPS+ is 89. He can't play the outfield. He can't throw. He can't run. And he can't hit.
The exercise I did in 2020 painted a somewhat frightening scenario for Giancarlo Stanton moving forward. For the most part, the history of most of those other players proved prophetic. He seems clearly done. He had a resurgence, of sorts, at 31-years-old, but has crashed since then.
For his career, the ten most similar players to Stanton right now are:
Ralph Kiner - a Hall of Famer
That list, by and large, doesn't speak to the prospects of a bright future...