Big things expected of Brandon Belt in 2013


Is this the year Brandon Belt finally puts it all together?

The Giants and their fans sure hope so.

The gangly, awkward first baseman has shown flashes of brilliance with the bat during small stretches over the last two seasons, but has never found a consistent productivity level.

In 2011, Belt played in 63 games for the Giants, batting just .225 with nine home runs and 18 RBI. A year later as the Giants everyday first baseman, Belt improved his batting average to .275 but only hit seven home runs while driving in 56 runs in 145 games.

It’s hard to figure out what spring training stats mean, and most analysts will tell you they mean nothing. But it’s still fun to look at spring numbers and wonder about the possibilities.

In 19 games this spring, Belt has seven home runs, matching his entire 2012 total. Yes, it’s easier to hit round trippers in the warm air of Arizona as opposed to the damp San Francisco air along the shores of McCovey Cove. But maybe, just maybe, Belt has taken everything he’s learned over the last two years and is starting to put it all together.

As Belt told CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly last Friday, he has changed quite a bit:

“I’m not the same player I was from a mental aspect. I know what to expect now. … I just don’t think I was prepared earlier in my career. I was swinging at pitches out of the zone, not swinging at pitches in the zone. I feel on track now. I’ve just gotta keep doing it.”

Earlier in the spring, Belt opened up to The Chronicle’s Scott Ostler about what he did over the offseason:

“I mainly just tried to beat into my head what I learned in the second half of last year, when I started playing better.”

Ostler asked Belt about all the home runs he’s hitting this spring:

“That’s a product of just seeing the ball well, and the more you’re able to pick up the ball…the more you’re going to drive it. That’s the feeling I want to try to take into the season.”

SFBay sports writer Chelena Goldman and sports editor Ryan Leong attended media day back in February and gathered around Belt with a group of reporters.

Giants first baseman Brandon Belt

One more thing Belt needs to work on is cutting down his strikeouts. In 2011, he struck out 57 times and walked 20 times. In his first full season in 2012, he whiffed 106 times and drew only 54 walks.

So far in spring training, he’s struck out 12 times while walking just three times.

Belt’s defense has never been a problem, it’s always been his bat. If he really has gotten over his mental hurdle and figured out how to become a consistent hitter, he could become a perennial All-Star first baseman.

It’s now time to take everything he has absorbed over the last two years and carry it over from spring training to the regular season.

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