Brandon Belt: Buckled In and Ready to Go
by Eno Sarris //
San Francisco Giants’ first-base prospect Brandon Belt is only 22 years old, has only played one season in the minor leagues, is blocked at his major league position by the recently re-signed Aubrey Huff (as R.J. Anderson noted yesterday)… and yet, he may make a fantasy impact in 2011 despite all of these obstacles. He’s jumped many a hurdle already.
In 2006, Belt was drafted in the 11th round by the Red Sox – as a high school pitcher. In 2007, he was drafted in the same round by the Braves – once again, as a pitcher. Then Belt went to the University Texas and struck out eight batters per nine as a reliever, only accruing 17 innings in 2008. After his 2009 season, he was drafted in the fifth round by the Giants.
If you are unfamiliar with his story, this progression might seem strange. The explaining factor is that Belt decided to focus on hitting with the Longhorns, and in that second season at the university, he put up a .323/.416/.523 line (with 40 walks against 37 strikeouts) that caught San Francisco’s eye. They drafted him, corrected his stance by asking him to widen his base and raise his hands, and set him loose on the minor leagues.
In short, he dominated despite lacking much experience as a hitter. In 595 plate appearances across High-, Double- and Triple-A, Belt hit .352/.455/.620 and walked 93 times against 99 strikeouts. That’s a 15.6% walk rate and a 20.1% strikeout rate, both excellent for a power hitter. Even in Triple-A, where he only accrued 61 plate appearances and ‘struggled’ with a .229 batting average, the rest of his triple-slash line looked just fine (.393/.563), and he walked 13 times against 15 strikeouts. He has an excellent idea of what to do at the plate.
The team sent him to the AFL to get more at-bats, and perhaps see if he was ready to play in the major leagues in 2011. Mission accomplished – Belt’s .372/.427/.616 line looked excellent even in the context of the offense-first AFL. This is true of all of Belt’s numbers. Even if you adjust for his slightly offense-friendly leagues, he has been excellent. Considering that his Double-A league, the Eastern League, was considered slightly pitcher-friendly in a recent study, there seems to be little left for Belt to prove in the minor leagues.
The best part about Belt’s work so far is the fact that he’s made these adjustments in his first professional year. That bodes well for future adjustments – both in terms of dealing with major-league pitching, as well as possible short-term positional adjustments. He’s also a very athletic guy with a smooth and easy way about him, as this video taken by Paul Sporer shows.
Of course there are hurdles left for Belt to jump – he has to prove that he’s either capable of playing in the outfield or capable of being so impressive at the plate that Huff should move there in his stead – but Belt has overcome higher obstacles already. He’s a good bet for fantasy relevance at some point in 2011.
For more on Brandon Belt and other young studs, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.