Before the 2011 season started, the Giants organization and their fan base could not wait to see the young phenom, Brandon Belt, make a significant contribution towards another World Series title. Brandon Belt had soared through the minor leagues and played at all 3 levels: A, AA, and AAA. Over the course of the season with all 3 teams, he hit a .352 average, .455 OBP, .620 slugging percentage, 1.075 OPS, and had 23 home runs in 136 games. Based on these strong numbers, who wouldn’t want to see this kid in the majors? On top of that, Belt is a smart kid with a great head on his shoulders. He respects the game and everyone around him and seems very “old-school.” He even wears his socks up! He seemed like the perfect shot at the Giants having another NL Rookie of the Year.
During spring training the hype began to expand nationally. Many sports writers, broadcasters, and analysts declared that Brandon Belt could be the 2011 NL Rookie of the Year. People began to label him as the “Next Buster Posey,” not just because Posey also won the Rookie of the Year Award, but because he could provide that energy and that spark that Posey provided en route to the World Series title. Since Aubrey Huff is able to play left and right field (not particularly well, but he’s at least fairly competent in the outfield) and since he’s aging, the decision to bring up Brandon Belt for opening day became much easier for management.
Sounds like the beginning to a happy ending, right? Not so much. I believe that this decision was a little rushed, and not necessarily in the best interest of Belt himself. However, Brandon Belt burst onto the MLB scene in his second game by hitting a 3-run home run against the Dodgers. That highlight was the sole glimpse of the young phenom that all Giants fans wanted to see. For his first 49 at bats this year, Belt had 9 hits equating to a .184 average. He had only one home run, 4 RBI’s, .265 slugging, .286 OBP, and .551 OPS. With these atrocious numbers, he got sent down to AAA to figure out any mechanical issues with his swing and hopefully regain some self-confidence. Belt continued to yo-yo between AAA and the Giants, and once he began to get some regular playing time with the Giants, he injured his wrist. Watch a video clip here:
Brandon Belt was sent to the DL with a hairline fracture in his left wrist, and he didn’t return to the Giants until July 19th. He started against the Dodgers and went 2-4 with a home run and 3 RBI’s. Ever since then though, Belt has continued to showcase inconsistency. Belt had a .263 average for July, a .212 average for August, and has a .195 average for September. His stat line for the whole season (consisting of 57 games): .213 average, 8 home runs, 16 RBI’s, .300 OBP, .396 slugging, and .696 OPS. Not exactly NL Rookie of the Year numbers.
Yes, you can’t exactly count this as a true example of Belt’s abilities because of his injury and his constant shifting between AAA and the Giants. I truly want Brandon Belt to do well, because he seems like a very intelligent baseball player with many useful skills that could help the Giants significantly. Giants management simply brought him up too early. I believe that the Giants should have let Belt start the year at AAA, like Buster Posey did last year. They should have let him establish himself as an everyday player and make sure that his swing was mechanically correct. Then once he was ready, they could call him up, under one condition though: make sure that he can start almost every day. It wouldn’t matter whether they had him starting in left field, right field, or at first base. Besides, Buster Posey started at first base when he first came up and was eased into catching duties. If Belt came up knowing that he would be starting and that he was here to stay, I truly believe that he would have been more natural and comfortable at the plate. He would have a more relaxed approach and not have to think so much when hitting, which would allow him to have better at-bats and hit more consistently. This would have been the appropriate “2011 NL Rookie of the Year” approach. The beginning of his career was mishandled by Giants management, but this is just a setback. Brandon Belt will bounce back to his normal form. Don’t get me wrong, Brandon Belt is the future of the Giants. Who knows, maybe he will become the next Buster Posey. It’ll just have to happen in his second season.