The San Francisco Giants announced today that 22 year old rookie first baseman Brandon Belt has been named the team’s starting first baseman. Back-up first baseman Travis Ishikawa has been designated for assignment, and the Giants hope to move him in a trade during the upcoming week.
Belt stormed through three Minor League levels in the Giants’ farm system in 2010, hitting a cumulative .352 with 23 HR, 42 2B, 10 3B, 23 HR, 112 RBI, and 99 runs scored. Belt also posted a 1.075 OPS with a .455 OBP. The Houston, Texas native has been rated an outstanding fielder at first base and brings excellent speed in the field and on the bases. Giants’ incumbent first baseman Aubrey Huff will take right field until regular right fielder Cody Ross returns from the DL in about ten days, then Huff will become the team’s everyday left fielder.
During the past 18 years, starting with the Barry Bonds era, the Giants have variously constructed their teams around great hitting or great pitching, never quite bringing a balance to both attacks. During the 1993-2007 Bonds years, the idea was to have just enough back-up hitting and just enough pitching to support Bonds’ unstoppable offensive powerhouse. During the last several years of Barry Bonds’ tenure, the front office began drafting quality pitchers, setting the stage for the formation of arguably the best starting staff in the game, and certainly the best in Giants franchise history.
But the farm system still lagged behind in producing home-grown hitters. San Francisco even entered their 2010 Championship season with serious questions about run production, but the starting staff and the bullpen were dominant, and a number of hitters posted above average offensive numbers– enough to power the Giants through the 2010 playoffs and World Series.
The arrivals of Brandon Belt and Buster Posey signal the begining of the Giants Minor League system producing above average position players for the big club over the next several years. In 2012-13, look for a number of young players to make their marks: outfielders Thomas Neal, Gary Brown, and Francisco Peguero; and infielders Brandon Crawford, Charlie Culberson, Nick Noonan, and Ehire Adrianza.
Excellent pitching prospects are also on the horizon: Zack Wheeler, Jose Casilla, and Jorge Bucardo will likely be pitching for the Giants in AT&T Park sometime in the next three years.
Brandon Belt represents that extra dimension missing since the days of Will Clark, when San Francisco Giants were dominant at the plate as well as on the mound. Belt’s addition turns an already potent run-producing line-up into an absolutely filthy run scoring machine.