12 Days Till Opening Day: Ready Your #belted For 2015

This is going to be Brandon Belt’s breakout year—and since I know you’re wondering, yes, you are reading these words in 2015. It’s been said every year since 2011, and despite him having a pretty solid career so far (including a very good 2013), he’s seen as a bit of a disappointment. I wrote last year that that’s because of the insane expectations for prospects Giants fans were made to have after Bumgarner and Posey, and it’s still true, though I think Belt’s apparent “failure” and the team’s incredible success has softened things for young Joe Panik.

Anyway, Belt’s 2014 was a total lost season until his contributions in October, but none of it was his fault. He was hit by a pitch and broke his hand, and upon returning suffered one of the freakiest on-field injuries imaginable. The ghost of Marco Scutaro, haunting his old position at the keystone, used his dark magic to materialize a baseball and propel it at Belt’s head, concussing him. After April, he never played more than 11 games in a month. Just forget 2014 when projecting Belt forward.

Let’s talk about 2013, by far Belt’s best year as a big leaguer. He hit .289/.360/.481, making him one of the best first basemen in baseball. This was fueled in large part by an MVP-level second half of the season, after he made the final set of major tweaks to his swing that he’s made as a big leaguer. Tweaks that we saw early on in 2014 and that were producing impressive results, but which were scuppered by injury. Which is to say that I think his 2013 is the baseline we can expect out of a healthy season from Belt. Wildly, even stupidly, optimistic? Almost certainly. And yet:

beltbonds

 

Yeah, it’s just a silly gif, and you could probably find a dozen lefty role players or minor league washouts or groundskeepers who swung like Bonds one time. Still, it’s something fun to hope on.

Prediction time: Belt plays a full season and plays so well that the Giants don’t mind resting Posey: .285/.385/.505, 25 homers, and a top-10 MVP finish. This is the year!

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