SF Giants first baseman Brandon Belt had a career year at the plate in 2021 but his production has cratered in 2022. Is it time for the front office to consider moving on from the longtime first baseman?
Is it time for the SF Giants to move on from longtime first baseman Brandon Belt?
Belt experienced a career resurgence beginning in 2020. This was due to being relatively healthy as well as a new coaching staff that helped him unlock his lofty potential. From 2020 - 2021, the left-handed bat posted a 164 wRC+, which ranked as the third-best mark in baseball.
Only Juan Soto (171 wRC+) and Bryce Harper (164 wRC+) tallied a higher mark with a minimum of 400 plate appearances. On a side note, can you imagine those two players playing on the same team? That'd be tough to beat.
I digress. Belt became a free agent last winter where he accepted a one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer. This was a lucrative amount of money for Belt and a relatively risk-free move for the Giants as this was only a one-year deal.
The front office was expecting the 34-year-old to produce at a level near where he had for the previous two seasons. However, that has just not been the case. Injuries have been a factor as he was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier in the season and has been battling a nagging knee ailment for much of the season.
Regardless of the reason, the production has not been there. Belt has slashed .227/.342/.373 (107 WRC+) with eight home runs, 38 RBI, and 25 runs in 275 plate appearances. This includes a 12.7 percent walk rate against a 26.2 percent strikeout rate. Belt continues to have a patient eye and has chased at only 25.1 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone.
However, he has provided little offensive value outside of getting on-base. His ISO (.146), exit velocity (88.3 MPH), and barrel rate (13.0 percent) represent noticeable downturns compared to the previous two seasons.
Perhaps, it was unfair to expect the 12-year veteran to have another career year at the plate in his age-34 season. He has an extensive history of injuries at this point and there is a threshold in which that begins to chip away at performance. That seems to be the case with Belt.
The question is, who will replace Belt at first base? Wilmer Flores would be a candidate if the Giants can re-sign him and J.D. Davis has flashed a potent bat in his brief tenure with the Giants. The Giants need to get faster and more athletic but bringing back Belt might not help in achieving those goals.
He has had a nice career up until this point. The left-handed bat might have a little left in the tank, but it might behoove the Giants to see if that is true from afar.