Hey, do you remember the one about Brandon Belt being blocked by a 34-year old Aubrey Huff (-0.5 fWAR, .668 OPS from 2011 to 2012)? What about the one where he was almost didn’t start the 2012 season with the San Francisco Giants because of Brett Pill (.618 OPS over 114 PA in 2012)?
They seem like bad jokes now, but both scenarios were in fact significant parts to Belt’s (often facepalm-inducing) roller coaster ascension to becoming the Giants starting first baseman.
Yes, it’s his job for good now after his 1.7 fWAR, .270/.360/421 season in 2012, but just in case Bruce Bochy or Brian Sabean has any more crazy ideas up their sleeves, Belt is simply leaving the team without even a single shred of doubt this spring.
How? By being the best — not just on the Giants, but in all of MLB.
By now, I’m sure the “spring numbers don’t count” caveats in baseball articles have reached saturation levels, so let’s keep it short: when a player is the best in the league in Spring Training, folks notice.
Unsurprisingly, Belt is riding a wave of renewed hype into Opening Day with a league-leading 1.384 OPS through 64 at-bats in 20 games, swatting seven homers and six doubles headed into Wednesday’s Cactus League play against the Arizona Diamondbacks … where he added one more homer for good measure.
So yeah, this guy is pretty much unstoppable right now.
Not that the 24-year old has ever really had problem playing in March, mind you. Constantly having to fight for a job might have something to do with that, but Belt’s .817 OPS in the spring of 2011 and 1.028 in 2012 still suggests that he’s getting more comfortable by the year.
Now that he’s topped all of those numbers though, what’s next for the team’s former top prospect?
Well, all signs are pointing to a breakout season, doesn’t it. With 550-600 PA in 2013, Belt looks poised to put up his first .800-plus OPS season, and if he can turn some of that extra-bases power into anything more than 20 homers, he might even break the 3.0 fWAR mark before he turns 26.
They say that Spring Training numbers don’t mean a whole lot, but for the Belt, they’re a loud and clear re-affirmation that the Giants future at first base has arrived for good.
Someone might just want to tell him to save a little for the regular season, that’s all.