Thursday, April 12, 2012

San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt Demotion to AAA-Fresno Seems Imminent

Two years ago, there was little doubt that Brandon Belt would become the San Francisco Giants' starting first baseman for years to come, as well as become part of a one-two combo in the middle of the lineup with Buster Posey.  Now with Belt struggling to hit from the plate and having his ball club constantly second-guessing him, the question is not when will Belt become the player we all thought he was, but if he has the talent to do so.

Belt was not in the Giants' starting lineup for the third straight game on Thursday when the Giants defeated the Colorado Rockies, 4-2.  He has gone one for 11 with five strikeouts to start the season.

It is not news to anyone that Belt will be sitting on the bench when facing left-handers this season, as manager Bruce Bochy said before the season that Brett Pill would be in the lineup when that occurs.  So seeing Belt sit against Rockies' left-hander Jamie Moyer was no surprise on Thursday.

However, players with this much hype surrounding them do not sit three games in a row, nor do they get off to one for 11 starts to the season.  Also, phenom-type players tend to get support from their own organization -- the Giants have done everything but that so far this season.

The latest public shot at Belt came on Tuesday when GM Brian Sabean said he would like to see a bit more consistency out of Belt going forward.
"Its not so much what the outcome is statistically, as much as the approach ... You want the quality at-bat, you want something that's put into play hard and with authority, or take your walk ... I think he's a little bit in between right now knowing he's made the ballclub, there is more confidence in him because we do feel he's ready, but you still have to perform to stay in the lineup."
The comment shows where the Giants are with Belt at this moment.  He has struggled at the plate since becoming the next young player everyone wants to see succeed for this ballclub, and seeing him struggle has taken its toll on every part of the Giants' front office.

They are simply tired of do-overs for Belt.  Bringing him up and down from AAA-Fresno to San Francisco was a mistake, but good players adjust to that, and Sabean seemed to voice that concern with his recent comment.

Something else may be taking its toll on the current confidence this team has with Belt, though. Hitting coach Hensley Meulens mentioned exactly what the Giants were keeping their eye on with before the season even started.
“The thing we continue to talk to him about is no matter how good his spring is going numbers wise, we want to see him have good mechanics,” Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens told me. “We know how he was pitched last season and the things he struggled with. All we’re doing right now is make sure he’s prepared, if and when he’s back in the big leagues, he no longer goes through those struggles.”
If it is a public comment, you know it is a major issue in the Giants organization, and this was one of the first hints at the fact that San Francisco may not have as much faith in Belt becoming a Giants staple as we all thought.

So with those kind of comments paired with the fact that Belt has had a rough start to the season, going one for 11 with five strikeouts, it is fair to say that Belt's current stint in San Francisco may not be lasting long.  In fact, Belt's demotion to AAA-Fresno seems to be imminent, especially if everyone continues to hit except for him.

To make matters worse for Belt, who has had struggles with those exact mechanics at the plate that Meulens mentioned, Pill has been off to a great start to the season.  He has shown more aggressiveness and understanding at the plate in three at-bats this season than Belt has in all 11 of his at-bats.  Pill had a homerun in the Arizona series.

But Pill is not the future -- Belt is, or so we thought.

The Giants know what kind of players succeed in the MLB, and they know Belt does not have the bat to compete at this level at the moment.  Maybe sending him down to work on understanding that is what needs to be done.

We can still expect Belt to be playing in San Francisco for a little while longer, though.  But if he continues to struggle at the plate while every other player seems to be contributing in some way or another, we may be seeing Belt play in Fresno for a good portion of this season in order to work on those concerning mechanics.

The timetable for Belt and his bat would seem to be within the next month of the season, based on the recent comments, threat of starting him in AAA before the season and his recent struggles at the plate.

The Giants will give him his chances to succeed, but there is a point where he is becoming nothing but a distraction to a Giants team with more on their plate to worry about right now.

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