On Tuesday, Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area caused a stir on Twitter when he posted a quote from San Francisco Giants Manager Bruce Bochy stating that Hector Sanchez is a better hitter than Brandon Belt.
When Baggarly asked Bochy if Sanchez's bat was preferable to Belt's, Bochy replied, "Yeah, I think that's fair to say. Wouldn't you?"
Several baseball analysts, such as Keith Law of ESPN, Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated, Wendy Thurm of FanGraphs, Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated and Rob Neyer of SB Nation, chimed in to vehemently disagree with Bochy's assessment.
The only area where Sanchez is currently outpacing Belt is in the batting average department. Sanchez is hitting .281 compared to just .246 for Belt.
However, Belt is currently ahead of Sanchez in on-base percentage (.356 for Belt to .286 for Sanchez), power (.156 isolated slugging to .102), OPS (.758 to .669) and walk rate (team-leading 14.6 percent to team-worst 1.5 percent).
While using statistics from this season paints a picture of Belt being superior to Sanchez, their minor league track records account for a much larger sample size, and those numbers further tilt the argument towards Belt.
Belt was the No. 23-rated prospect by Baseball America headed into last season. For his minor league career, he hit .343/.457/.596 with 31 home runs in 825 plate minor league plate appearances.
Sanchez was never a highly-regarded prospect by any major baseball publication. In nearly 1,300 minor league plate appearances, he hit a respectable .295/.373/.443 with 26 home runs.
When the Giants play Posey at first base, Sanchez behind the plate and Belt on the bench, they are also weakening themselves defensively.
Sanchez is not very athletic behind the plate. He has a hard time making quick, athletic movements, which makes him a below average ball-blocker. He is below average at framing pitches, because he tends to stab at the ball.
Posey is a solid defensive catcher, and Belt is a very smooth defender at first base. The Giants' best offensive and defensive alignment is with Belt at first base and Posey behind the plate.
Sanchez is only 22 years old and already a big improvement over Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart as the backup to Posey. He may not have been a highly-regarded prospect, but history is littered with prospects coming from nowhere to establish themselves as stars in the big leagues.
There are also legitimate concerns with Belt.
His swing is one of the most complicated in the game, with way too much movement. He strikes out way too often—nearly 25 percent of the time. He doesn't have a single home run off of a right-handed pitcher this season, and June was the only month where he looked like a potential star.
Yet the information that we have paints a clear picture that Brandon Belt is a better baseball player than Hector Sanchez.
Using major league statistics from this season, career minor league statistics, prospect rankings, the analysis of respected baseball writers like Law, Sheehan, Thurm, Jaffe and Neyer and my amateur defensive scouting report, the argument is clearly in Belt's favor.
Bochy has been in professional baseball longer than I have been alive. He has a World Series Championship as a manager on his resume. He also has more information at his disposal and more expertise than most baseball writers have.
Yet on this debate, Bochy is wrong. When Bochy sits Belt, he is weakening the Giants' ability to get on base, hit for power and prevent the opposition from scoring.
If Bochy isn't willing to give Belt the opportunity to play everyday, the Giants front office should find an organization that will give Belt that chance. Play him or trade him, because the current plan is hindering Belt's development and weakening the Giants.
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