Player Profile: Brandon Belt

“Trust is built with consistency.” Lincoln Chafee

Is this the year to trust Belt?

Is this the year to trust Belt?

In fantasy, as in life, trust is a foundation. It is the driving force behind why fantasy owners like having Joe Mauer and Joey Votto’s on their teams as a draft or auction cannot solely be based on upside. There will be reports of who has lost weight and what players have gained muscle entering spring training. But sometimes a potential breakout is something more subtle. Read this excerpt from Brandon Belt’s blog posted on August 6th (http://brandon.mlblogs.com):

“It seems good things are happening for me at the plate overall lately. It began in Philly. Bochy sat me for the series (except for one PH appearance) so I could work on some things. For a long time, the Giants hitting coaches here have suggested I move back in the batter’s box so I’d have more time to see and react to the pitch. And to hold the bat in my fingers rather than in my palms. The lighter grip loosens your whole body. But I was stubborn. I’d been successful my whole life with what I’d always done. Then Buster talked to me about it. Several players did, including one from another team. He said, “Hey I was in the same position you were. I changed where I stood in the box and held the bat with my fingers and it made all the difference in the world.’’ And he said it only took a couple days to figure it out. I thought, “OK, I have a couple days.’’

I saw results immediately.

​When Bochy put me back in the lineup Friday night in Tampa, I had three hits, one short of the cycle. I saw the ball better, didn’t feel like I was rushing and I wasn’t getting in my own way anymore. I felt I was really tapping into my ability, like I did in spring training. I could just do what I feel I was born to do. What I can do. Even Sunday when I didn’t have a great game, I still saw the ball better and got on base twice. Obviously there’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment period to get consistent, but I’m committed 100 percent to making it work. If I can be consistent, I can be a huge contributor to this team for years to come.”

One of the keys to success in any sport is being able to make adjustments. Belt has the chance to take a step forward in his development as a run producer for the Giants and a breakout season in 2014 would go a long way towards fantasy owners trusting him going forward. I speculated last year that Belt could be a poor man’s Eric Hosmer, but I think my comparison was a little awry as he is more in line as a Joey Votto “lite”. What is better is that the cost to invest in Belt’s breakout is a small one. With the knowledge of small sample sizes here is the tale of Belt’s two halves in 2013:

  • First Half – 89 G, 42 R, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 4 SB 260/336/448
  • Second Half – 61 G, 34 R, 7 HR, 29 RBI 1 SB 326/350/525

Most notable to me are the gains in ISO (SLG-AVG) and the improvement in his OBP after the break. Belt’s continued gain in these areas will be the seeds of a potential breakout for 2014. At face value his ISO only grew eleven points from the first half to the second but that is because of the spike in batting average. Over the second half Belt struck out almost 4% less than in the first and his LD% jumped over 6 points which suggests there will be regression over the course of a full season. Belt had the same HR/FB% in both halves as well of 10.6% and if he is going to breakout it will need to increase in 2014.

To further illustrate my point about Belt being Votto “lite” here are their full season averages according to Baseball-Reference.com and 2013 seasons:

  • Joey Votto 162 Average – 92 R, 26 HR, 91 RBI, 7 SB 314/419/541
  • Brandon Belt 162 Average – 65 R, 15 HR, 64 RBI, 9 SB 273/351/447
  • Joey Votto 2013 – 162 G, 101 R, 24 HR, 73 RBI, 6 SB 305/435/491
  • Brandon Belt 2013 – 150 G, 76 R, 17 HR, 67 RBI, 5 SB 289/360/481

Is Joey Votto a better baseball player and fantasy player than Brandon Belt? Absolutely, I am using these comparisons to illustrate the similarity of their numbers last year and to give a baseline for projecting what I think is Belt’s pending breakout. I did cheat using Votto’s 162 game averages without his career year of 2010. Belt cannot come close to a season of that magnitude no matter how much I like him going forward. In order to take a step forward in his counting stats, a move to third or fourth would benefit Belt greatly. He did well batting third in the 48 games in which he batted there with a 320/371/508 slash line along with 5 home runs and 25 RBI. Here are my projections for Votto and Belt for 2014:

  • Joey Votto 2014 Projection – 96 R, 24 HR, 90 RBI, 5 SB 316/435/520
  • Brandon Belt 2014 Projection – 84 R, 22 HR, 85 RBI, 5 SB 295/348/515

According to the latest NFBC ADP’s Votto is going at pick 16.69 as the 4th first baseman off the draft boards while Belt is the 16th one selected at pick 139.69. Belt will only be turning 26 this season and enters 2014 with confidence and more familiarity with his new approach that should allow him to return great value on where he is being selected. I am comfortable with his projection above and with a bump in any of his counting categories Belt will be a top ten first baseman this year. I believe this is the year he gains fantasy player’s trust.

Greg Jewett is a staff writer for Roto Analysis and you can follow on Twitter @gjewett9

Brandon Belt picture credit: http://www4.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Brandon+Belt+San+Francisco+Giants+v+Houston+rmMUOwvKKErl.jpg

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