Thursday, March 17, 2011

Taking the cautious route with Brandon Belt

Rory Paap ( and I had a discussion about when Brandon Belt should be brought up to the big leagues on Twitter and I wanted to expand on this a little further.

My main thought, which I still stand by, is that pushing him to the next level is a much greater risk than potentially holding him back a little too long. In my opinion, there is a huge potential downside to rushing him to the majors that cannot be overlooked. The only way it makes sense to deviate from this plan is if, without a doubt, Brandon Belt is better than Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff or Cody Ross.

Last year at AA Richmond, Belt put up a MLE of .271/.334/.473, which is a great line, but it still isn't without a doubt superior to what Burrell did with the Giants; he hit .266/ 364/ 509. The last thing we should do is put too much weight on Spring Training. Right now, Burrell and Belt are roughly equal offensively and until the scale is tilted in Belt's favor, the risk outweighs the reward for bringing him up.

If he's brought up too early, his confidence could be shaken if he runs into a slump. He may not get the same regular playing time and yo-yoed like so many Giants prospects before him, which could hurt his development. The fans may turn on him if he doesn't light the world on fire right from the get go (ala Matt Wieters; it's a Bruce Jenkins article waiting to happen). There is the possibility that he may not have what it takes to perform at the major league level and flames out.

If he is left in AAA and continues knocking the cover off the ball for a month and he forces his way up in a month, then he has lost a month in the majors and thats it (which helps in the long run financially anyway), but if any of the other problems creep in, the pressure on him and the team is much bigger. Penciling him into the lineup in the middle of a slump isn't a big deal in Fresno but could be in San Francisco where the expectations have never been higher.

On top of the performance questions, there is the matter of determining what the Giants already have on their roster and having to give up one of those spots to Belt. If Brandon Belt hits up to his expectations, he deserves playing time, but if he doesn't, then it's possible that sticking with Pat Burrell (the assumed odd man out) is the way to go.

Both are projected by Zips to have similar offensive numbers, so if Burrell hits like he did for the Giants in 2010 and Belt stumbles, the Giants have lost that important offensive production.

Taking the safe route may not endear anyone to Brian Sabean, but it's the right move, it's the smart move, and it's the move the Giants front office is likely to take.

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