Now, I’ve been a fan of Brandon Belt since his minor league days, pre-25-man roster. That was probably solidified when I complemented him on his high socks and he, being the nice Nacogdoches Texan that he is, was pleasantly surprised that a fan liked the fact he had been wearing high socks his whole career.
At the time, he had just been promoted to AAA Fresno. In AA Richmond, he had hit .337/.413/.623 with a BABIP of .373, wOBA of .447, wRC+ of 177, and ISO of .286. And he walked. A good amount. In 2010, he had a BB% of 17.4% in A+ San Jose, 10.9% in AA Richmond, and 21.3% in a very short, end of season stint in AAA Fresno.
At 22-years-old at the time, he had become a top tier prospect for the Giants and rightfully so.
Pair the amazing year he had in his first full season playing baseball with high socks? What’s not for a sabermetric-inclined high socks loving gal to like?
But in 2011, the frustration began.
Yo-yo’d worse than Wham! waiting to go-go, there was no telling how much playing time Belt would actually get. Ultimately, he was sent down to AAA when, after he wasn’t given even some semblance of regular playing time, was shockingly* inconsistent at the plate.
But, after injuries hit the Giants, Belt was up again. And then he broke his arm.
Kid couldn’t catch a break.
But hi-ho, hi-ho, the season still continued on and he played once he healed.
And somehow, despite a wacky** 2011, he was on the 25-man roster when the 2012 season began.
Then there was just this sliver of hope that he would be the every day first baseman. There was a time in the season where some signs hinted at that. Just maybe.
But hopes were dashed just like the Astros attempting to get a hit on June 13th.
All signs pointed to more frustration.
Statistics of all kinds aside, this just wasn’t fair to him at all. Especially not after that 2010 season where he proved that he can at least be a competent, above-average first baseman.
It’s boiled down to a frustrating July.
I asked Bochy if Sanchez’s bat is preferable to Belt’s. “Yeah, I think that’s fair to say. Wouldn’t you?”
— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) July 17, 2012
And. No, it’s not really fair to say that Bochy. Especially not when Hector Sanchez is a sub-defender who could still probably use a bit more seasoning in Fresno. And even if, by some scout’s observation, Sanchez is a better hitter than Belt, Sanchez is not a first baseman. Belt is.
Buster Posey is not a first baseman, he is an elite catcher.
Pablo Sandoval is no longer a first baseman, nor a catcher. He is a power-hitting third baseman.
Aubrey Huff is not a starting first baseman, he is a bench player.
Brett Pill is not a starting first baseman, he is a bench player or a DH on an American League team.
It’s fair to say that Belt isn’t the best first baseman out there. In all accounts, it’s true. But he is the best first baseman the Giants have.
Unlike Posey and Sanchez, Belt’s natural position is first base. And he plays it pretty well — not the most spectacular, but it’s not something to complain about.
Unlike Huff and Pill, Belt can actually field and regularly get on base.
But, when you’re an above-average first baseman who went 1-for-3 on the day and you’re pinch hit for with a 32-year-old career minor leaguer who has had even less playing time in the bigs, it’s almost as if you’re being set up to fail.
I can’t even imagine how the Giants can defend pinch hitting for Belt with Justin Christian. I really can’t, especially because there is no way it can be defended.
All signs point to so many people projecting that Belt is worse than anyone on the team, when he’s anything but that. He cannot be the worst player on the team when Emmanuel Burriss exists on the roster.
He is the best first baseman the Giants have and they refuse to acknowledge that.
I want to see Belt succeed. He needs the opportunity to actually play through slumps and be the every day first baseman he was brought up to be.
But that opportunity won’t be with the Giants.
After two seasons of unbelievable mistreatment of a former top tier prospect, I can’t see how the Giants can even give him a fair shake now. I can’t even see the Giants think about giving him a fair shake.
I’ve grown to become completely okay with trading Belt, if only it means that he can succeed and thrive with a team that actually treats him like the once top tier prospect and above-average (with potential) first baseman he is, not like the world’s greatest monster that so many people (fans, analysts, writers, and Bochy) around the Giants make him out to be.
The trade may come at the expense of the Giants’ offense, which seems like something they’ll be okay with doing since they don’t even let him play every day.
It’ll be a sad day, definitely, if and when*** Belt is traded. But it cannot possibly be more sad than watching this saga continue.
**if by wacky, you mean increasingly frustrating and blood pressure rising 2011, then probably yes
***most likely when, because it’s just bound to happen at this point