Has Brandon Belt Turned The Corner?
Brandon Belt (aka the Baby Giraffe) has been on baseball radars ever since he torched three levels of minor league ball in 2010 and 2011. Belt has been looked at as somewhat of a disappointment ever since being called up to the majors in late 2011. He’s a little trouble staying on the field, due to Bruce Bochy obviously not being sold on some parts of his game. The tides have seemingly finally turned in Belt’s favor. What changed their course?
Many people, including ESPN’s Keith Law, reported that Bochy ($) had taken Belt under his wing in order to work on his swing a little. The goal? To get Belt back to his old swing that had less drift and made him the well above average hitter that he was in the minors. The changes have seemingly worked very well. Since May 1, (Belt was benched and subsequently put in the aforementioned extra work with Bochy in late April) Belt has posted a .265/.348/.499 line in 334 plate appearances. He’s smashed 13 home runs. If you prefer advanced metrics, like me, his wOBA over that span sits at .358 to go with a 144 wRC+. The numbers scream at you. I don’t usually like to choose random endpoints, but I don’t consider them to be arbitrary due to the coaching sessions and the changing of swing mechanics.
The Giants constantly had Belt on the bench versus left handed pitchers at the beginning of the season. They know their roster much better than I do, but it seems a little silly when you look at the data. Belt’s wRC+ versus lefties is 128 in 285 career plate appearances. His wRC+ versus righties sits at 118 over 824 plate appearances. Many people, much smarter than me, have noted that it takes splits a large amount of time to stabilize, but this small sample size should at least buy him an opportunity to prove himself over a longer period.
What about his fantasy value?
Belt, due to his home park, was seemingly always destined to be better suited for real life than for fantasy teams. In my eyes his outlook has changed for the rest of the season and for 2014. Extrapolating data can always get us into trouble, but I’m going to do it a little here. If you extrapolate the rates above over 600 plate appearances you’d be looking at a 23 home run version of Brandon Belt. ZiPS has Belt finishing 2013 with 19 home runs and 7 steals. 23 homers doesn’t seem out of the question with his new approach and full playing time guaranteed. Belt’s value goes up even more in OBP setups due to his ability to draw walks at a pretty consistent clip.
Belt was definitely a post hype sleeper coming into 2013, but I’m willing to bet you will still be able to get him at a reasonable price in 2014. Belt currently sits at 57% ownership in Yahoo leagues and 80.4% of ESPN leagues. If you’re looking for help on your roster I would definitely think long and hard about adding him.
Belt might never be as valuable in fantasy as he is in real life (6th in WAR among qualified first basemen), but his prospects are definitely looking up. First base isn’t as easy to fill with a bomber as it used to be. If Belt is able to put together a 20/10 season (essentially Hosmer projections with a little less speed) his fantasy value should be much better than the investment he will cost next season.