Brandon Belt garnered a lot of attention in 2010, just one year after being selected in the fifth round of the draft. 

There certainly wasn’t much expected from the 22-year old (he turns 23 on April 22), but he delivered in a big way. 

In fact, the Giants couldn’t keep him down, moving him from Single-A to Double-A to Triple-A, as he compiled the following line:

492 At Bats
.352 Batting Average (173 Hits)
23 Home Runs
112 RBI
99 Runs
22 Stolen Bases
.455 On Base Percentage
.620 Slugging Percentage
.405 Batting Average on Balls in Play

I think, just by looking at the average, we would all say that it is hard to imagine it being replicated. Then, you include his unbelievable BABIP and we all know that he’s not a .350 hitter. 

That’s not a bad thing, but we just have to be realistic.

He appears to bring a good eye at the plate, with a 15.9 percent walk rate and 20.1 percent walk rate. While the majority of the sample size came at Double-A or below (only 48 AB at Triple-A), it still is impressive. 

With that type of potential, it would appear that Belt could very easily be a .280+ hitter in the Major Leagues. 

If we assumed that his strikeout rate increased to 25.0 percent and his home runs fall to 20, in the same 492 AB he would need a BABIP of .338 to hit .280. 

That’s not unbelievable, is it? What if his strikeouts don’t fall quite that far? What if he can increase his power? It just gets more realistic.

Baseball America, who ranked him as the Giants top prospect heading into 2011, said the following about his approach at the plate:

“Belt combines tremendous plate discipline with an up-the-middle approach that serves him well against lefthanders and righthanders alike. He makes adjustments from pitch to pitch—something almost unheard of for a first-year pro—and enjoys the mental side of hitting.

“His power is through the middle of the field, and he should be good for at least 20 homers per year. His ability to make consistent hard contact could provide the Giants a lefthanded version of Buster Posey in the very near future.”

That certainly is backed up by the numbers. He showed that he’s not a pure power hitter, with 43 doubles and 10 triples to go along with his 23 home runs. 

He’s just a great hitter and with it comes the potential for consistent 20-25 HR production. Plus, with all those extra base hits, seeing the power improve as he gets older and gains experience is very realistic.

The speed is a little bit deceiving, as he had 18 at Single-A (in 25 attempts), before stealing just four bases over 223 AB at Double and Triple-A. It’s a number that is certainly skewed and I wouldn’t expect him to be able to steal a significant number of bases. Maybe 10-12 is realistic, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see him come in below that.

The real question with Belt is where he may fit into the Giants lineup. 

They currently have Aubrey Huff at 1B, though he easily could be shifted to the outfield to make room for Belt. With Mark DeRosa currently penciled into left field, that’s not an unreasonable scenario. DeRosa’s ability to be a super utility, seeing time all around the diamond, certainly helps.

Whether he opens the year with the Giants, or more likely that he opens at Triple-A (which is looking like the plan at this point), sooner or later he is going to join the Giants, much like Buster Posey did in ’10. When he does, he brings the potential to be a viable option in all formats. 

This spring, he certainly has shown that he could produce in a major way. In 62 AB (second most for the Giants, showing they wanted to get a good, long look at him) he has hit .306 with three HR, 13 RBI and two SB. He continues to show an ability to make contact, posting a strikeout rate of 19.35 percent (12 K). 

They are all good signs and just further push the intrigue around him.

Last season, the Giants had Buster Posey in the minor leagues until May 29, allowing him more time to develop and get the feel of the upper levels of the minor leagues; there’s a good chance that they follow the same game plan with Belt.

If you are in a deeper league, drafting and stashing him is a good idea, depending on the space you have on your bench. While he may not be a prototypical slugging first baseman, there is more than enough to like.

What are your thoughts on Belt? Is he a player you think will have value in 2011? Why or why not?


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