Belt’s short career full of optimism 

It is soooooo tempting to think Brandon Belt is going to simply keep doing what he’s been doing.

Even this spring, Belt has been swinging a sweet bat, hitting the kind of tape-measure rockets that leave those around him wide-eyed in wonder.

His home run last week against the Brewers had San Francisco-saavy fans whispering “McCovey Cove.”

Still, more than a month shy of his 23rd birthday, this left-handed-hitting first baseman drafted by the Giants in the fifth round of the 2009 draft has a grand total of one season of professional baseball under his belt (sorry, couldn’t resist — won’t happen again).

Belt’s whirlwind 2010 tour that saw him move from Single-A San Jose to Double-A Richmond to Triple-AAA Fresno, racking up 23 home runs, 112 RBIs while hitting a combined .352. The Giant-Flying Squirrel-Grizzly had to have played in as many ballparks as anybody in baseball last year. 

Belt added his exclamation point by ripping through the Arizona Fall League, finishing fourth in batting with a .372 average, posting 16 RBIs in 22 games as a member of the Scottsdale Scorpions.

With all those miles on his odometer — and those uniforms in his closet — Belt has fans putting him alongside Buster Posey at the heart of the Giants’ order.

At this point, however, it would make more sense to approach Belt’s 2011 expectations this way: If he contributes anything to the Giants’ defense of their World Series title, it would be a bonus. Asking a rookie to play a key role is shaky for any team, much less the defending world champs.

Sure, Giants fans have witnessed Pablo Sandoval post huge numbers as a rookie in 2009, and Buster Posey reel in a Rookie of the Year Award last year. But expecting Belt to do the same is like betting on the longest of longshots because that’s what any rookie is, no matter how talented.

Greats like Willie Mays struggled out of the gate. Longtime major-leaguers like Matt Williams needed several trips between the majors and minors before sticking. 

Pitchers are so good at the highest level, a hitter never gets an easy at-bat. A hitter is faced with pitchers who have better control and who can do more things with a baseball. And he has to stay confident even though his average may be half what he’s used to.

Sure, Belt arrives with fewer than 600 professional at-bats under his ... oops, made a promise ... he has shown scouts that he has the tools to succeed in the majors. To expect him to do it this young is downright unfair.
He is, however, making it awfully tempting.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

 

Quick learner

.352 Brandon Belt’s 2010 combined minor league batting average

23 Home runs Belt had in the minors last season

112 RBIs Belt totaled in the minors last season

3 Minor league levels Belt played at in 2010

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Tim Liotta

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