Posted By Jeff Fletcher on March 9, 2011 9:08 am
The Brandon Belt bandwagon certainly has gained a lot of momentum over the past couple weeks, so I figured I’d throw a little cold water on it.
From all I’ve seen and heard from people who know, I believe Belt will be a quality major leaguer, and he will be one sometime in 2011, but I don’t think he is ready now.
For starters, Brandon Belt is not Buster Posey, circa 2010. Posey was the Golden Spikes winner, as college baseball’s best player. He was the No. 5 overall pick. In his previous full season, he had played 35 games at Triple-A. Belt was a fifth-round pick who didn’t even make the Giants top 30 prospects list prior to 2010 (partly because he hadn’t played yet, but he was still eligible for the list based on his tools). In his one full season he did have a 1.075 OPS, but that included only 13 games at Triple-A.
Posey brought a better resume into spring 2010 than Belt brings into spring 2011. (I will grant you, however, that Belt brings a better defensive resume. He’s already well established at his position, while Posey had some work to do as a catcher.)
The second point is that this is only spring training. Belt has an .837 OPS in the Cactus League, but he’s only 7-for-25 (.280). If he goes 0-for-6, that drops his average to .231. That’s the blink of an eye, folks. Twenty-five at-bats is nothing, and 25 spring training at-bats is less than nothing. I can’t tell you what ratio of Belt’s 25 at-bats have been against pitchers who will actually be in the majors, but I can tell you most of the major league pitchers he did face were not approaching him with a scouting report. That’s why it is dangerous to make evaluations based on these “games. ”
There are also financial considerations that can’t be ignored. If Belt misses the first few weeks of the season, the Giants push free agency back a year. If he misses the first couple months, they push arbitration back. That shouldn’t be an overriding factor, but it’s certainly a reason to lean toward the conservative route if there is any doubt about a player’s readiness.
Bottom line, if I were Brian Sabean I wouldn’t let anything over the past three weeks (yes, that’s all it’s been) convince me to change the opinion I had when camp began. I don’t believe the Giants were ready to give Belt a job on Feb. 19, so they shouldn’t be now.
I reserve the right to change my opinion if Belt is hitting .450 over 65 spring at-bats two weeks from now, but at the moment I still think the Giants should plan on starting him in the minors.