Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Raise your hand if you had the Miami Marlins pegged as a possible National League playoff team at the start of the season.
Keep it raised if you still had them in that position following the loss of reigning NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez in the beginning of May.
I'm guessing the group with their hands still up in the air is pretty slim, if anyone at all. Yet here we are on the cusp of the final month of Major League Baseball's regular season and the Marlins are right in the thick of the NL playoff race.
So, how is it that a 100-loss team from a year ago, with the lowest payroll in the NL and minus its top pitcher, is still even in any postseason discussion?
The 24-year-old slugger has put himself into the discussion along with Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfielder Mike Trout as the best young player in the game thanks to league bests in both home runs (33) and RBI (97).
Stanton's emergence, and quite simply his ability to stay healthy, has the Marlins within shouting distance of the second wild card spot in the NL, three games back of the San Francisco Giants.
Regardless how all that turns out, though, Stanton has started to separate himself from the short list of players who could win an NL MVP Award this season. In addition to the power numbers he's hitting close to .300 (.299) and leads the NL in on-base percentage (.407) thanks in part to a league-best 86 walks, 23 of which have been intentional (also the most in the game).
Honestly, just the fact that here we are on Aug. 26 still talking about the Marlins should make him the winner.
Stanton continued to state his case to be the NL's best player on Monday, as he became the third quickest player to 150 home runs in Miami's victory over the Angels.
"There's no doubt he's mega-talented," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Stanton. "A lot of the stuff he does reminds you of a lot of different people -- anyone from Vlad Guerrero to Mike Trout. He does a lot of good things well in the field, and (I) can see why he's such a terrific ballplayer."
Stanton became the 10th youngest player to reach the milestone and at 24 years and 290 days old, only two active players -- Albert Pujols (24, 212 days) and Alex Rodriguez (24, 255) -- have reached the mark quicker.
You almost get the feeling, though, that with each home run Stanton hits the harder it is going to be for the Marlins to sign him to a long-term deal, something he basically has no intention of doing at the moment.
You'd have to think the Marlins would jump at a deal similar to the 6-year, $144.5 million pact the Angels gave Trout. He's still two years away from free agency, so there is no rush, but it ease a lot of minds in South Florida if Stanton was locked up.
People don't show up to Marlins Park now, so imagine what it will be like if Stanton jets?
By the way, in case you were wondering, the Marlins have never had an MVP winner. That could, and likely, will change, in about two and a half months.
The only real questions remaining are will he be playing in October, but more importantly, where will he be playing two years from now?