Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Has Brandon Belt Finally Arrived?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We’ve long heard about the upside of Brandon Belt, though inconsistency both in production and playing time has helped to label him a disappointment. Did that come to an end in 2013? The production was definitely there:

509 At Bats
.289 Batting Average (147 Hits)
17 Home Runs
67 RBI
76 Runs
5 Stolen Bases
.360 On Base Percentage
.481 Slugging Percentage
.351 BABIP

The question now facing fantasy owners is two-fold. First, can he at least maintain this type of production. Second, is there any hope that he improves upon it.

The answer to both questions should be a resounding yes. While the BABIP seems inflated, it’s actually his second consecutive season at .351. He routinely hits the ball hard, with line drive rates of 25.6% and 24.3% the past two seasons, helping him to maintain the lofty mark.

While his strikeout rate did sit at 21.9% overall, he was at 19.8% in the second half. If he can maintain that type of a mark for the full season, coupled with his line drive rate, there’s a chance he flirts with a .300 average.

The next question is the power, where the home ballpark plays a role. Only 6 of his HR came at home, where AT&T ballpark yielded among the fewest home runs per game (0.768). That said, he did mash double after double and, at 25-years old (he will turn 26 in April), there’s reason to believe that he can add some more pop. The ballpark will keep him under 30, but expecting him to climb into the 20-24 range is realistic.

Now, throw in migrating into the third spot of the batting order (181 AB), which should give him more RBI/R opportunities and there’s a lot to like. Sure, he could be moved out of that spot, depending on offseason acquisitions, but he’s proven that he can carry the load in the middle of the lineup. We shouldn’t expect him to hit worse than fifth in the coming year, though time will tell.

Throw in the ability to reach double-digit stolen bases and what’s not to like? Granted, the production against left-handed pitching wasn’t stellar (.261 with 3 HR), but it wasn’t crippling either. A .266 hitter for his career against southpaws, that’s not a concern.

First base is generally viewed as a power position, so Belt’s lack of real upside in this department is going to drag him down the rankings slightly. He does bring a total package to the table and one worth owning as either a corner infielder or depth option with the potential of becoming a starter.

He may never be an elite option, but a middle of te order bat with the potential to go .300/20/10 is always going to hold fantasy appeal.

Sources – Fangraphs, CBS Sports, ESPN

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