Prospect Report: Brandon Belt

Brandon Belt was a fifth round draft pick in 2009, so it is impossible for people to have been expecting much from the left-handed first baseman.  Instead, what the San Francisco Giants have gotten is a monster at the plate who is making quick work of their system.

Drafted out of the University of Texas, Belt opened the year at Single-A but lasted only 77 games there.  That’s what happens when you hit .383 with 10 HR, 62 RBI, 62 R and 18 SB.

If the stat line isn’t enough, in his 269 AB he had 50 strikeouts vs. 58 walks.  That’s a walk rate of 17.7%.

OK, at 22-years old he was probably just old for the level, allowing him to easily make the transition from the college game to the minor leagues, right?  While his numbers weren’t quite as lofty in 172 Double-A at bats, he was equally as impressive.

In fact, he showed more power, hitting 9 HR (1 fewer then at Single-A in 97 less AB).  That went with a .331 average with 40 HR, 24 R and 2 SB.

The Giants chose to push him further, with him making his Triple-A debut on Wednesday.  All he did that day was go 1-3 with 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 R and 1 SB.

The only word that comes to mind is…  “Wow!”

There’s reason to believe that the SB total he showed at the lower levels won’t fully translate, as he has just three stolen bases in four attempts in Double and Triple-A.  As it is, he was actually caught seven times to get his 18 stolen bases at Single-A. 

That’s not to say that the 6’5″ slugger won’t be able to steal a few bases in the Major Leagues, but don’t look for him to be a 30/30 threat.  It just doesn’t seem like he has that type of ability.  What he is known for is his bat.

J.T. Snow, a special assistant for the Giants, was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle in July as saying:

“He’s good. He gets it. He swings a good bat, and he’s good around the bag. He’s country strong. From what I’ve seen, he hits the ball line-drive hard, carrying out of the ballpark.”

He certainly has shown that, but his impressive strikeout-to-walk rate has regressed slightly since his first promotion.  At Double-A he struck out 34 times vs. 22 walks.  That’s still an awfully impressive walk rate of 11.3%.

Describing him as a line drive hitter is an understatement.  Through his 440 AB, he posted a line drive rate of 25.1% and a fly ball rate of 41.4%.  Those are tremendous numbers, and should allow him to pile up the extra base hits.

The power may not translate fully to the Major Leagues, where Pac Bell Park is difficult on left-handed hitters.  Doubles and triples, however (he has 38 doubles and 10 triples), should still be plentiful.

The eye at the plate is great…

The ability to hit line drives is tremendous…

The one problem I see is that his BABIP is inflated, even at Double-A.  His .331 average was buoyed by a .372 BABIP.  It’s just highly unlikely that he can maintain that against tougher competition, meaning the average is going to fall.

Let’s assume that over the same number of AB, his power falls to 6 HR and he posts a BABIP of .333 (with his line drive ability, this is realistic and in fact, could be exceeded).  That would lead to a .291 average.

With the potential for more, there’s just nothing not to like.

The idea of slotting him into the lineup in 2011, along with Buster Posey, has to excite Giants fans.  Obviously, it’s impossible to say for sure how his bat is going to translate, but so far you have to like what you’ve seen.  The Giants are also clearly willing to push him, so would it surprise anyone to see him in the Major Leagues, to get his feet wet, in September?

In keeper leagues, he’s certainly worth stashing, as he could make an impact in 2011.

What are your thoughts on Belt?  How good do you think he could be?  Will he make an impact in 2011?

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One comment

  1. fiji.siv says:

    I think the biggest variable in this decision is Giants management. Lincecum fell into Super Two status by 7 days and Posey will most certainly become a Super Two, even factoring his late call-up, due to the 33 days of service time he accrued in 2009. The Giants already have plenty of flexibility at 1B so the question is whether they feel they need another bat off the bench. The surprising offensive showings from Huff and Torres along with the acquisitions of Burrell and Guillen lead me to believe that the Giants are content with their offense now. However, if the Giants continue their playoff push and one of their bats slump, the Giants will need to reevaluate whether 30+ days of Belt now is worth $5-10mil down the road.

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