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Belt's up-and-down rookie season leaves him a question mark
Drafted: Fifth round, 2009 amateur draft. (earlier drafted in 11th round, 2006 by Red Sox, 11th round, 2007 by Braves)
Age (entering 2012): 24
Last level: San Francisco.
Key 2011 stats: In 53 games at Class-A San Jose and Class-AAA Fresno: .320 BA, .989 OPS, 8 HR/36 RBI, 47 BB/48 SO. In 63 games in San Francisco: .225 BA, .718 OPS, 9 HR, 18 RBI, 20 BB/57 SO.
Trajectory: Quick and turbulent. Touted by minorleagueball.com as the Giants' top prospect (comparable to the Kansas City Royal's Eric Hosmer), Belt was in the Giants' opening day lineup, in equal parts the result of an impressive spring and injuries to Andres Torres and Cody Ross.
That followed a single, awesome minor league season (.352 BA, 1.075 OPS, 23 HR, 112 RBI, 43 2B, 10 3B, 22 SB, 93 BB/99 SO) beginning in Class-A San Jose and ending in Class-AAA Fresno.
Context: After batting .229 at Class-AAA Fresno in 2010, Belt's readiness for the major leagues in 2011 was open to question. His inclusion in the every-day line up in April, followed by a chain of call-ups and demotions to and from Fresno, battered the young player's psyche. (fellow rookie Crawford seemed unfazed by similar treatment)
By season's end, it was hard to tell if Belt's offensive struggles resulted from a lack of seasoning, the strain of a difficult season in San Francisco, arguable mishandling by Bochy or all three.
Belt improved his batting average by 80 points at Class-AAA Fresno over a single season, from .229 to .309. That suggests he has plenty of physical skill upside.
My gut: The biggest question mark about Belt is his mental make-up. Under Sabean and Bochy, the Giants have not been a hospitable place for young players; besides Buster Posey, can you name one who has prospered?
This kid unquestionably has major league tools. I remain unconvinced that they'll ever be fully revealed as a Giant.