First baseman Brandon Belt, aka "Awkward Giraffe" aka "Baby Belt" is not one of the bigger headlines for the San Francisco Giants going into next season.
Belt's relative obscurity could change in 2013.
After tearing it up in the minors, Belt impressed the Giants with his big bat and fielding prowess. He flashed his defensive ability in the first round of last year's playoffs against the Cincinnati Reds, diving into the stands to make a brilliant catch in Game 1 of the series.
Belt has been inconsistent on the offensive end, however, mainly because of Bruce Bochy's unwillingness to insert him as the everyday first baseman. For a good portion of the 2012 season Bochy alternated between Belt and Brett Pill, while also giving Buster Posey a few starts at first base.
Sharing playing time with Posey and Pill ultimately slowed Belt's development and his ability to produce. The young left-handed slugger needed time to develop a comfort level at the plate, and adjust to Major League pitching.
Once Posey resumed his everyday position behind the plate and Pill was brought down to the minors, the job became Belt's. In turn, his numbers at the plate drastically improved. During the first half of the season, Belt hit an anemic .254. Over the course of the second half, Belt batted .293 (with an additional 33 at-bats), lifting his season average to a solid .275.
He also went on a tear in the months of August and September, batting .349 and .316 respectively.
Belt also found his place batting in the No. 6 spot in the batting order. In 202 plate appearances, he batted .297, with 27 RBI and 27 walks. One of Belt's biggest strengths is his patience at the plate, which demonstrates both discipline and maturity. He walked 54 times in 2012, a number only surpassed by Buster Posey in the Giants lineup.
Brandon Belt's role is going to expand next year. He is, at long last, the everyday first baseman. The Giants cannot afford to have minimal offensive production from a notoriously power-heavy position.
Giants fans know all about Belt's potential. Now that he's an everyday presence in the starting lineup, he can begin to live up to expectations. To Bochy's credit, his patience with the 24-year-old began to pay dividends at the end of the 2012 season.
Belt should enjoy the same success heading into 2013. He is a talented young player with a bright future, and the best is yet to come.
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