Brandon Belt has been one of the most scrutinized players on the San Francisco Giants since he made the big league club out of spring training in 2011.
The University of Texas alum was a highly-touted offensive player that could bring power to the plate. Plus, he was a left-handed first baseman with experience and poise at the position. Instead of heading to Fresno out of the Scottsdale camp like many expected, he earned the opening day start at first base. It’s safe to say there was hype surrounding the rookie.
Belt, however, did not perform up to expectations. He was sent up and down from the minors several times in his rookie season and finished with 209 plate appearances. His sophomore season, when Belt was supposed to massively improve on his disappointing rookie campaign, was nothing too spectacular either.
Finally, in the final stretches of this 2013 season, Belt is beginning to blossom into the player the Giants organization and fan base had hoped he would become. A major alteration to his batting grip in early August helped create the wave of change for this revamped first baseman.
Since Aug. 1, Belt is batting .367 with five home runs and 11 RBIs. Most impressively, he has a 1.102 OPS in that span of 25 games. Belt’s productivity in that stretch has vaulted him into second place on the team in home runs (15), fourth in RBIs (50), and second in OPS (.832) behind only Buster Posey.
The way that Belt has hit the past month, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him penciled in as the team’s No. 3 hitter on Opening Day 2014. There’s no telling what shape Pablo Sandoval is going to show up in, though he has lost a considerable amount of weight lately, and he vows to be healthy from day one at Scottsdale Stadium next spring.
Even with a healthy and strong Sandoval at the start of 2014, Belt would be a wiser choice in that slot. His batting eye is far superior to Sandoval’s and if Posey is on deck, the more on base, the merrier. Sandoval’s free-swinging attitude is better suited behind Posey, who is known to get on base here and there.
Belt can use the remainder of this season as time for personal gain; time to continue his hot streak while continuing to improve his swing. Finishing this season on the tear that he is on now will do wonders for Belt — not only for his confidence, but his work ethic in the offseason.
If this is the Brandon Belt that the Giants can come to expect for years to come, look for San Francisco’s absence from postseason play to be short-lived.