Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Brandon Belt Scouting Report

Brandon Belt was an unheralded prospect coming in this season not even scratching the surface as one of the top 10 Giants Prospects. He was a 5th round pick out of the University of Texas and some thought even the 5th round was too high for him:
This was a surprising overdraft to me, as I loved what the Giants had done with their first four picks. However, Belt, despite blessed with exceptional size and good natural power, lacks the performance numbers or tools to be drafted this high. Since being drafted in the 11th round in both 2006 and 2007 (Red Sox and Braves), Belt has been a huge disappointment, with relatively weak hitting, making him going this high a big surprise. He's got good tools at first, and with mechanical adjustments, he might become a more powerful hitter, but it's just not likely.
Even Giants Scouting Director Doug Mapson didn't see Belt's meteoric rise through the system coming.
"Here's a guy who is 6-5, 220, who is a good athlete and a good fielder, has a good arm, he's just learning to hit and he's had moderate success. I think all the upside is in front of this guy… He might be able to contribute a few years down the line… We'll see what kind of offensive player he becomes, but anyone who thinks they can solve hitting in just a few years of amateur ball is sorely mistaken."

Well it seems the adjustments that have been made have done wonders for Belt who has hit at every level he has been to this season including a 1 for 3, HR(1), 2 BB, SB(1). BA= .333 night in his AAA debut last night. He was passed over by the majority of the scouting handbooks to start the season but now he is the topic de juor.

2010 Stats: .360/.460/.624 433 AB 66 XBH 20 Hr .236 ISO 84:79 K:BB 20/8 SB/CS .416 BABIP 33.3 GB% 25.2 LD% 41.4 FB%
When you put up numbers like that you are bound to be noticed, his numbers thus far eclipse even the chosen one Buster Posey. It is no wonder that he is building buzz and is in line for a September call up.
Here is a run down of the scouting reports:

John Sickels, Minor League Ball:

His swing to start the season was a mechanical mess. My comment to my colleague at the game was simply "That is the ugliest swing I've ever seen." He had a huge hitch, and was lifting his back arm very high when he started to wind up his swing.
He's made a lot of changes during the season, though. He's starting his hands higher, and while his starting position for his swing is higher than is considered technically preferable, he's made it work for him. The shortening of the swing has come naturally, and he's shown a good ability to get the bat on balls inside. He still fouls them off more often than not, but he keeps a few fair.
One of Belt's advantages is that he has an uncanny way of keeping his bat in the zone for pitches, making him able to turn on fastballs but do a good job of hitting the other way.
His speed is not going to be a big part of his game. He himself said that when pitchers start getting wise, the stolen bases will stop.
Jason Grey, ESPN:

Belt has quick hands and good bat speed. A more upright, open stance helps keep him from getting his long levers jammed on the inner half of the plate and lets him get his arms extended more often, and he has incorporated a little more loft in his swing to turn more of his good raw power into game power, yet still allowing his zone to stay in the bat a long time. (Too much of an uppercut stroke makes your bat get out of the zone too quickly for consistent, hard contact.) He's still mostly a line-drive hitter who squares balls up to the gaps, but he now gets better hip turn and doesn't cut himself off as much, which gets him more carry on the ball. Belt also references being able to see the ball a bit better, and thus far he has demonstrated an ability to handle the strike zone well, walking almost as many times as he has struck out. He also has solid pitch recognition. Scouting reports say he stays back on offspeed stuff well.

Although Belt has 20 steals this year, it won't be a part of his game at the big league level, as he doesn't have above-average speed. He stole a number of bags earlier in the year simply by taking advantage of Class A pitchers not paying attention to him, but his running game has petered out at Double-A. As a defender, Belt is consistent and above-average at first base. The Giants have played him a small amount at the corner outfield spots, but his future is at first base, given his good hands there, as well as his poor routes and jumps in the outfield.

I think it speaks well for Belt's future development that he has been able to adapt to a new way of hitting very quickly and has taken off in such a short time. Many thought Belt's offensive numbers at Class A were driven by the launching pads of the California League, but he hasn't skipped a beat in a tough hitting environment at Double-A Richmond. The reason I didn't include him in my Top 10 for '10 rankings for the balance of the season (below) in recent weeks was not because I wasn't buying his bat, but rather because his playing time in the big leagues is uncertain for the balance of the season.
Adam Foster, Project Prospect:

Replaying what I captured, I see an athletic hitter with little head movement who does a good job staying back with his upper body then explodes his hips through the ball. Belt does all this while maintaining a level swing path and keeping his barrel in the zone for a good amount of time. What's more, he displays an impressive amount of wrist strength, accelerating his hands through the ball as he makes contact.

The swing above tormented California League pitchers (.470 wOBA, 331 PA). But even after his dominant first half in High-A, Belt had plenty of doubters.
(College hitters can put up impressive performances in the low minors before fizzling out against tougher competition.)
Now over the 150 plate appearance mark in Double-A, he continues to rake. It's becoming hard to question him. Belt has posted sensational line-drive rates (23% in A+ and 31% in AA). And though he has been striking out more in Double-A than he did in High-A -- and walking much less -- he continues to improve upon his power numbers

Bryan Smith, Fangraphs:

After starting his season 0-for-8 in two games, Belt would post just nine more 0-fers in 75 games in the California League. He would put together an 18-game hit streak in April and a 16-game streak in June, flashing more power as time went on. Even his baserunning improved — after going just 11-for-18 stealing bases the first two months, Belt stole seven straight bases successfully before earning a promotion to Double-A. Belt's Cal League career ended with a .383/.492/.628 batting line (.486 wOBA)in one of the leagues tougher stadiums in which to hit- at an age just under the league average. The team moved him up to Richmond in the Eastern League, where — according again to Fred Stanley in Baggarly's piece — "it's taken some of our better hitting prospects a few months to get used to that league."

It took Belt one game. In his Flying Squirrels debut, Belt went 0-for-3 against former first-round pick Brooks Brown. He followed that up with a 12-game hitting steak that included five home runs and six multi-hit games. With above-average speed and a strong left arm (he was once considered a stronger prospect on a mound), I was calling for an outfield trial as early as June. On July 29, the Giants responded, giving Belt a start in left field for the first time all season. In his final 23 games with Richmond, Belt would take the outfield seven times. While his defense at first base is considered an asset, adding some versatility can't be considered a bad thing.

I think it's likelier we'll see Belt in San Francisco after the Fresno season ends, rather then when the rosters expand on September 1. I think he could help the Giants against right-handed pitchers; he doesn't have a bad line against left-handers this year, but in High-A he couldn't hit them for power (.097 ISO), and in Double-A, his BB-K ratio was 2-12 in 53 plate appearances. He has shown some improvements this year, and I'm not calling him a future platoon player, just not a 22-year-old that should be getting development time against big league lefties in a Wild Card race.
Projecting Belt I see/hope for a guy with a little less pop then Derek Lee. I think 20 to 25 homer power as a ceiling but more likely 15-20 homer power. He has a good approach and bat control and hits the ball squarely nearly every time so a .300 to .315 average is probably a good best case but more conservatively .280 to .290 with a solid OBP.

The thing that will play well is his gap to gap approach; it is similat to Buster Posey and well suited for AT&T park (and most of the NL West ball parks) with big gaps which will mean a good amount of doubles and tripples. He should get a few steals but I can't imagine more then a handful especially if Bruce Bochy stays coaching. He should also give solid defense whether it is at 1B or in left field with his good athleticism and above average speed and arm.

Belt is an exciting prospect and I look forward to his future development.


  1. Great Post. Belt has me really excited for next year already. We also did a post him today, so check it out!

  2. great work and nice research. excited about belt's potential.

  3. Maybe a good player to phase in in 2012 and start by 2013. That would mean signing Huff for 2 more years with the two of them splitting time in 2012.