The San Francisco Giants made two big roster moves today when they called up rookie Brandon Belt from Triple A Fresno and traded two minor league pitchers for Houston Astros second baseman Jeff Keppinger. The moves start to provide a blueprint for the direction General Manager Brian Sabean is taking the World Champion Giants as they look to prepare for the 2011 playoffs.
Brandon Belt is batting .324 with 29 RBI in 43 games at Triple A Frenso and is considered the top prospect in the Giants’ minor league system. Belt will likely morph into the Giants starting left fielder, although he will see some time at first base. Catcher Hector Sanchez was optioned to Fresno to make room for Belt.
Jeff Keppinger is not an impact-type player but should provide the Giants with better run production at second base where Emmanuel Burriss is batting .216 and Mike Fontenot .233 through July 18th.
Keppinger is currently hitting .307 with 4 HRS, 9 doubles, and 20 RBI after appearing in 43 game this year. San Francisco sent pitchers Henry Sosa (8-3 at Richmond and Fresno in 2011 with a 5.51 ERA) and Jason Stoffel (1-2 at Richmond with a 3.98 ERA and 31 SO in 31.2 IP) to the Astros for the veteran second baseman. Neither Sosa or Stoffel were considered important prospects in the Giants system.
Keppinger missed the better part of two months at the start of the season after having foot surgery and only has 163 at-bats so far this year. He came up with the Mets in 2004 and has played for Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Houston since 2009. Jeff Keppinger is considered a solid contact hitter and would likely fit into the second slot in the Giants batting order. In his career Jeff Keppinger has played 225 games at 2nd base, 178 games at short, and 103 games at 3rd base.
Giants starting second baseman Freddy Sanchez is out with a dislocated right shoulder, and just recently started to swing a fungo bat as part of his rehabilitation program. Sanchez has a history of knee and shoulder injuries, and if he is not able to return at 100% this season Keppinger is a capable starter who brings a productive bat and good defense at second base.
The move cost the Giants very little, but could prove to be a critical mid-season addition in 2011.