Brandon Belt: Odd Man Out?
By Ross Parker
Brandon Belt seems to be a staple on first base for the San Francisco Giants, but is the baby giraffe’s spot on the roster really safe? Recent Giants’ decisions and trends seem to indicate otherwise…
In just about every Giants’ conversation I partake in, Brandon Belt seems to be a lightning rod in our discussion.
On one hand, you have a player who has consistently improved over the past few seasons in the majors on both defense and offense, and also has major pop in his bat. On the other hand, you have a maddeningly inconsistent batter who strikes out at the worst times at an alarming rate. In my discussion group, it’s definitely a love/hate relationship with Belt.
As much as we’ve always talked about Belt, it was always a given that he had a roster spot. Recently, however, a thought occurred to me of whether or not Belt is really safe. This thought was sparked by a handful of trends the Giants had been following in their decision making. Allow me to elaborate.
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Ever since the infamous Posey collision, the Giants have made a point to get Buster Posey out of the squat and on first base. With Posey on first, the Giants either benched Belt, or resorted to putting him in the outfield. While Belt was in the outfield, it was clear that he wasn’t a natural outfielder, as he doesn’t posses the adequate speed to be a productive outfielder, defensively. Belt would sometimes become a liability in left, but skipper Bruce Bochy had no choice as he needed to find a way to keep Belt’s bat in the lineup. Though it seems now that the Giants will more than likely carry 5 to 6 outfielders on the roster, so the outfield will be completely filled, eliminating a move to the outfield.
On top of that, the Giants’ have made it clear that they’re comfortable with having Andrew Susac take over full time at catcher. And with Trevor Brown’s current tear through spring training, it seems the Giants will also have a capable backup to Susac as well in the near future. This all but assures that Posey will make a transition to a full-time first baseman, similarly to what the Twins have done with Joe Mauer (though the Giants will hopefully have better results). This pushes Belt out at first.
A move to third base for Belt doesn’t make a lot of sense, neither. The Giants’ look like they’ve found a cornerstone on the hot corner in Matt Duffy, with promising young utility player in Kelby Tomlinson to back him up. Plus, Belt isn’t good enough of an athlete to play 2nd base or shortstop, so a spot in the infield is about out of the question as well.
With an overstocked outfield, a talented and young group catchers, and a impending move to first from Posey, it seems Belt is being pushed out just from sheer overflow of talent from the Giants. While you could make the argument that Belt could back up Posey at first base, it doesn’t make a lot of sense having a backup that wants to be paid as much as Belt is demanding. To keep Belt around and happy with his contract, it will probably cost the Giants’ $10 million a year.
$10 million for a backup? That’s not happening. Sure, the Giants’ could sign him to an extension right now. But as Posey gets more accustomed to first base in the near future, listen for the Belt trade rumors to begin.
I like Belt, I do. I think he is great player to have on this Giants’ team, for right now. He is dominating the preseason right now, which is a good sign. But he has a history of dominating double-A and triple-A competition, only to put up average major league numbers. Sure, Belt is seeing major league quality pitchers in spring training, but pitchers in spring training don’t throw anything else but fastballs and curveballs in no order. It’d be very concerning if he wasn’t doing well.
But looking to the future, there aren’t going to be man reasons to keep him around. He is a guess-hitter that led his team in strikeouts by almost 30 SO’s last season. He is a solid defender and has tremendous power, but it has never got him over the hump from being an average player.
Brandon Belt is being forced out by a talented farm league, it’s rough. But it’s a nature of the business.