San Francisco Giants: Can Brandon Belt Live Up to Lofty Expectations?

Martin Telleria@martintelleriaSenior Analyst IIIJune 22, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 17:  Brandon Belt #9 of the San Francisco Giants hits a single that scores Tony Abreu #10 in the fourth inning of their game against the San Diego Padres at AT&T Park on June 17, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Two years in to his major league career, the San Francisco Giants are still wondering who exactly Brandon Belt is.

Is he the guy that destroys spring training and minor league pitching, showing both his ability to hit for prodigious power as well as a high batting average (spring stats: .437/.459/.901, 8 HR)?

Or is he the guy we’ve seen in the majors so far, a player who’s shown modest power at best and an inability to consistently get on base?

The answer is most likely somewhere in between. At just 25 years old, Belt still has plenty of time to continue to tinker with his swing, hopefully getting the large loop that has plagued him from his arrival to the big leagues out of it.

Unlike some of his more heralded teammates like Buster Posey and Matt Cain, Belt was not a highly touted prospect coming out of college. Drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, 147th overall, most scouts were impressed, but not really blown away, by anything Belt brought to the table.

It wasn’t until he started absolutely mashing in the minors, hitting .352 with 23 home runs and 112 RBI in 136 games in 2010, that people really started to get a glimpse of his potential.

He was to be the future at first base.

Now, 279 games into his major league career, he still might be that. Unfortunately, he probably won’t be the future star at first base that many fans expected.

And as a fifth-round pick, that’s ok. The Giants could have done a lot worse than what they’ve already gotten from Belt, and most likely what they will continue to get in the future.

Obviously it’s time to lower expectations a tad bit. The question then becomes, what should we expect to see from Belt going forward?

Already an above-average defender at his position, the value that Belt provides on defense alone should provide a certain degree of optimism. As is the case in the professional ranks, however, defense will always take a backseat to what a player does with the bat. 

Always a patient hitter at the plate, Belt must continue to make strides if he hopes to ever be more than just a player with a keen eye at the plate. He must do something with the pitches that he does indeed select.

The power is obviously there; we’ve seen him waterlog a few balls in his career by way of McCovey Cove. It just hasn’t consistently been there thus far. The same goes for his approach at the plate. He’ll string together a few good weeks and then proceed to spoil it by a month-long slump.

Fortunately for Giants fans, I do not believe that Belt has reached his ceiling just yet. I’m not saying that it’s all that much higher than what he’s currently producing, but his best years are yet to come.

In terms of a past comparison, Mark Grace comes to mind. A career .303 hitter with modest power (173 home runs and 1146 RBI), I see Belt maybe not hitting for quite that high of an average, but also to slightly outperform those power numbers.

We’ve seen what he can do when his head is right and his swing is smooth. If he can harness his ability for extended periods of time, a few plus-.300 seasons with 20-25 home runs don’t seem out of his reach.

Belt will never be Will Clark; he never was going to be, despite how high the expectations rose. If he can, however, produce a Grace-like career, the Giants organization would be more than pleased with their 2009 fifth-round selection.