Belt's Change For The Better
Improvement attributed to adjustment at the plate
SAN FRANCISCO—Brandon Belt was a top pitching prospect in high school before his career took a turn. He ended up as a first baseman with an aluminum bat swing at Texas, and the Giants liked his athleticism and spent a fifth-round draft choice on him in 2009.
That pick is starting to look like a winning lottery ticket. Belt, 22, is having a pro debut season for the ages. After his latest act of heroism, a walkoff home run in the bottom of the 14th inning for Double-A Richmond, he was hitting .369/.465/.636 between Richmond and high Class A San Jose.
"I don't think anybody expects a first year player to do this," farm director Fred Stanley said. "Especially when he continued it into Double-A, where it's taken some of our better hitting prospects a few months to get used to that league. He stepped right in."
When the Giants first saw Belt in instructional league last fall, he had a closed stance that served him well as a contact hitter but left him prone to hard stuff inside. He showed an advanced knowledge of the strike zone. The Giants helped him change to a more upright stance and Belt did the rest.
"All we did was square him up and give him some direction back toward the middle," Stanley said. "Just kind of free him up so his hips and hands can work . . . and my goodness."
Belt has no glaring weaknesses. He is a plus runner, especially for his 6-foot-5 frame, having stolen 20 bases in 28 attempts. Special assistant J.T. Snow, a former Gold Glove first baseman, called Belt the best defender in the system at the position because of his soft hands and terrific instincts.
Because he runs and throws so well, Belt also got a few starts in the outfield in August to gauge his versatility. According to sources in the organization, the Giants expect to call him up in September.
• After struggling at the plate for most of the first half at Richmond, third baseman Conor Gillaspie hit .402 in July and kept it rolling into August to raise his line to .289/.339/.415.
• Outfielder Rafael Rodriguez dealt with a lower back issue while hitting .163 in 12 games for short season Salem-Keizer, prompting officials to send the teenager back to the Rookie-level Arizona League. Rodriguez, 18, signed for a $2.55 million bonus two years ago.