The San Francisco Giants are coming down to the wire on their decision regarding Brandon Belt, much like they did last year. Last season, the team added Belt to the 25-man roster on the last day of spring training, and he started at first base on Opening Day. It all went downhill from there.
Belt quickly lost confidence and spent the rest of the season bouncing between Triple-A, the disabled list, and the big club. When he was on the Giants' 25-man roster, he didn't play consistently until the end of the year, struggling as a result.
Belt has proven himself in the minor leagues; sending him back down would simply be a waste. He would tear the league up once again and the Giants would be forced to bring him up pretty quickly. Belt needs to prove himself against the best, and the Giants need to give him the opportunity to prove that he can hit big-league pitching.
Belt, who turns 24 later this month, must be given a good 500 at-bats this season at first base, where he is as good a fielder the Bay Area has seen since the days of JT Snow. This means that Aubrey Huff will need to play elsewhere—and by "elsewhere" I mean either left field or on another team.
Huff will always be appreciated in San Francisco as a critical part of the 2010 World Series championship team, but there is no future for him with the Giants, because the future is Brandon Belt. Belt may struggle at first, and honestly, he may struggle all year, but either way the team needs to know what they have in him.
Brian Sabean and Co. need to find out if they have their first baseman of the future or not, and they must give him the freedom to fail without fear of benching or demotion in order to do so.
Last season, Belt gave a little glimpse of what he is capable of, hitting some mammoth home runs (the opposite field shot in Florida comes to mind), but more often than not he looked overmatched and even downright confused at the plate. He seemed to be overly selective with his pitches, when his aggressive style was one of the reasons he had so much immediate success in the first place.
Belt has made some adjustments to his swing to shorten his stride and keep his bat in the zone longer, which has flattened out his swing a little bit. As a result, we may not see as many home runs as one might expect from Belt in 2012, but I believe that we will see a much more consistent and aggressive hitter—one who will prove that he belongs. The Giants just have to give him that opportunity.