Brandon Belt was highly touted as we headed into 2011. That’s what happens when you hit .352 with 23 HR and 112 RBI over 492 AB across three levels in your first full season of professional ball. However, the 2009 fifth round draft pick was not quite as impressive in his first stint in the Majors:
187 At Bats
.225 Batting Average (42 Hits)
9 Home Runs
3 Stolen Bases
.306 On Base Percentage
.412 Slugging Percentage
It obviously was a far cry from what owners had hoped to get from the rookie. Now, the question is not only if he can recover and find his footing in the Major Leagues, but if he will even be given an opportunity to play in 2012.
With the ability to play first base and the outfield, the acquisitions of Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan (who join Nate Schierholtz) does make things a little bit crowded. As for first base, we all know that Aubrey Huff is going to get the first crack at starting there…
Unfortunately for Belt, the presence of Brett Pill could also cloud his opportunities. Not only did Pill flourish at Triple-A (.312, 25 HR, 107 RBI over 536 AB), but he looked a lot better in his Major League cup of coffee (.300, 2 HR, 9 RBI over 50 AB). Discussing Pill and what would be possible is a story for another day, but the point is that Belt is no lock to get the first chance there anymore. Things get even trickier when you consider that Buster Posey could see at least a few games there in an attempt to keep him healthy.
So, the opportunity may not necessarily be there for Belt. That alone should cause owners to be skeptical about investing too heavily on him in yearly formats. From an ability standpoint, there are also things that he needs to improve.
First is his strikeout rate, which was at 27.3% in the Major Leagues. Before we call that an unrealistic number, look at what he has done at Triple-A:
- 2010 (48 AB) – 24.6%
- 2011 (165 AB) – 22.2%
While they aren’t based on a huge same size, it still shows that he has had issues making contact at the upper levels. It’s not impossible that he improves (you may want to call it likely), but it is also no guarantee. Even if he were down in the low 20% range, the number would put a bit of a wrench in his ability to hit for a good average. Before you point to his .300 average at Triple-A, that mark came courtesy of a .381 BABIP. In other words, it’s not going to happen.
His track record tells us that he should be able to figure it out, but time will ultimately tell.
Belt still showed off his power in 2011 and there is a ton of potential, but it is hard to consider him a lock to produce in 2012. First, he may not get the opportunity. Second, he needs time to adjust to the upper levels of professional baseball. I would expect him to open the year at Triple-A, getting regular AB and trying to figure things out. If he does and the Giants need an offensive boost, then he should get an opportunity.
Unfortunately, he is going to need something (Huff/Schierholtz struggles for example) to get that chance. Is it likely to happen? Yes, but don’t consider it a given.
What are your thoughts of Belt? Do you think he could be a productive option in 2012? Why or why not?
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Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: