According to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Giants are “leaning toward making (Brandon Belt) their starting first baseman.” An announcement is expected later today.
This morning, I ranked the top 10 rookies for 2011. At the time, I assumed Belt would begin the season in Triple-A and join the big league club sometime in May or June. For that reason, I included him only as an honorable mention outside the top 10. If this news is accurate, however, Belt would fit in at No. 3 or 4 on the list.
Belt was drafted in the 11th round in 2006 as a pitcher by the Boston Red Sox. He opted to attend San Jacinto JC instead. He turned down another 11th-round offer, this time from the Atlanta Braves, in 2007. Instead, he attended Texas as a full-time first basemen.
The Giants liked his athleticism and knowledge of the strike zone in 2009 and made him their fifth-round selection. During instructional league following the ’09 season, coaches had him try an upright, open stance. The results were shocking.
Belt exploded in 2010, jumping from high Class A to Triple-A in one season. He led the minors in hitting (.352), OPS (.620), and ranked second in on-base percentage (.455). In 492 at-bats, the left-handed swinger hit 23 HRs with 112 RBI, while swapping 22 bases in 30 tries.
The 22-year-old (he’ll turn 23 on April 20), offers excellent plate discipline with an up-the-middle approach. He makes adjustments from pitch to pitch, and makes consistent contact. He should develop 20-home run power. He also runs well for his size and is a smart baserunner. He has plus range at first base, and could be a perennial Gold Glove contender—so you know he’ll stick.
Baseball America also notes that his “intelligence and aptitude are off the charts.” He’s even been compared to Luis Gonzalez and Larry Walker. Wowsers!
Belt hit .282/.338/.479 with three homers, five doubles and 13 RBI in 71 at-bats this spring.
Cody Ross will miss the first few weeks of the season with a calf injury, meaning Aubrey Huff will take his place in right field. This opens up a spot for Belt at first base. If he hits well out of the gate, the Giants may be forced to squeeze Ross, Pat Burrell, Nate Schierholtz, or even Aaron Rowand.
If I were to guess, I’d say Belt would bat sixth in the Giants lineup to start behind Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval. Assuming 500 at-bats this season, Belt produce along the lines of 15 HRs, 75 RBI, .280 average with a high on-base percentage. Given the depth at first base this season, he likely won’t offer much value unless you’re playing in a very deep or NL-only league. His prospects in keeper and dynasty leagues, however, are very promising.
Image courtesy of: Joshua Sarner
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