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MLB San Francisco Giants

Predicting the San Francisco Giants’ Most Improved Player in Spring Training

Brandon Belt

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY SPORTS

The most vital player to the San Francisco Giants‘ potential success in 2014 is also likely to be their most improved player in Spring Training. Brandon Belt is the key to the Giants becoming a solid offensive team in the upcoming season. Belt is entering his third full season at the big league level. He owns a .798 OPS with 116 extra-base hits and 141 RBI in 358 career games.

Belt emerged as a rock in the middle of the Giants’ order in the second half of last season, posting a .326 batting average while tremendously decreasing his strikeout frequency in 247 official at-bats. He benefited from two subtle adjustments he made midseason. Belt altered his grip and stood back in the batter’s box, allowing him an additional split-second to react. The changes Belt was able to make helped eradicate a glaring hole in his swing and greatly improved his contact percentage.

The 25-year-old first baseman is still developing his skill-set and has yet to reach his full potential. This season has serious potential to showcase a breakout effort from Belt, who could become the Giants’ best run-producer in 2014. He’s been very impressive thus far in Spring Training, recording six hits, including two doubles, in 10 at-bats. It’s probable that Belt will continue improving at an accelerated rate throughout camp. Last season is a clear indicator of that.

According to FanGraphs.com, Belt is projected to record a .280 batting average with 18 home runs and 78 RBI in 600 official at-bats this season. Those numbers are somewhat conservative, though, considering Belt’s upward trajectory. He registered a .351 batting average on balls in play in 2013, signifying that his average will continue to climb if he’s able to further decrease his strikeout frequency.

Belt struck out 125 times last season, but only 49 of those Ks came in the second half. His BABIP reached .392 in the season’s final few months after the All-Star Break, indicating obvious improvement. The Oliver Projections, produced by FanGraphs.com, predict that Belt will enjoy similar success in 2014 as compared to last season, although the aforementioned estimates seemingly do not reflect his steady progression as a hitter.

Opening Day is now less than four weeks from today. Belt will further enhance his hitting efficiency over that time, specifically because of his ability to hone his mechanics at the plate. Belt isn’t reluctant to making changes in his natural swing tendencies. After recently earning a $2.9 million contract for the 2014 season, Belt now looks to flaunt his net worth. He’ll come out of Giants’ camp as their most improved player as he continues to develop into a valuable run-producer in San Francisco’s lineup.

John Shea is a San Francisco Giants writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @cutthroatpicks. “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.