by Ray Kuhn
Will this be the season Brandon Belt breaks out and reaches his “true” potential? Thus far he has carved out a niche as a solid contributor, but he has yet to reach his ceiling. Injuries have played a role, and some of the blame can be placed on his cavernous home park in San Francisco. His underlying skills do foreshadow a potential breakout this season as he turns 29 just after Opening Day.
Breakout may not be the right word as Belt hit .275 with 17 HR and 82 RBI last season, but I do expect him to exceed that production. The good thing is that he has proven that last year’s production is his likely floor, so there is minimal risk involved. When we take a look at his current ADP there is even less risk, as he is standing out to me as a player who could provide a positive return on his draft value.
Currently he is the 15th first baseman coming off the board with an ADP of 167.72 and pick range from 146 to 194.
Some observers might have expected Belt’s emergence to come last season as his fly ball percentage rose from 38% to 46%. That did not happen, as his home run to fly ball rate dropped from 14% to 9%. Based on his power metrics (per Baseball HQ), there is evidence that his home run to fly ball rate recovers and we see the benefits of fly ball increase. With 100 being the league average, Belt’s Power Index was 134 but his expected Power Index of 163 illustrates potential gains for 2017. In each of the last three seasons prior to 2016, his Power Index was well above the league average and he also had a Hard Contact Rate of 108 last year.
Belt coming close to the 30 home run mark next season shouldn’t take anyone by surprise as the tools and potential are there. While his fly balls increased last season, what stands out is that his line drives remained consistent at 28%. The first baseman was also able to increase his contact rate to 73%, so while it still has room for improvement it also doesn’t appear to be an impediment to his success.
Throughout his career Belt’s power has consistently been better on the road, but he hasn’t been a liability at home. He is batting .286 at home (in 349 games) while hitting .259 on the road (363 games). His power production benefits when on the road as he has 54 home runs and 179 RBI compared to 26 home runs and 139 RBI in San Francisco. While that is something to certainly keep in mind, it is not enough to scare me off.
If you miss out on one of the top first baseman pivoting to Belt is a sound strategy. There is the potential for a 30/100 campaign and you won’t be hurt by his floor either, which makes him a lot safer than some of your other alternatives.
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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings:
|Starting Pitcher||#1-20 |02/27/17|