Brandon Belt is Back, But Which Brandon Belt is He?

Coming off a .289 season with a 139 wRC+, Belt was an attractive later round target for 1B and UTIL in standard redraft leagues. To me he was a poor man’s Eric Hosmer, who could be drafted much later. I went pretty much all in on Belt in any leagues that I had the availability to draft him. Thankfully he got off to a monster start but unfortunately he broke his thumb and missed a good portion of the season.

Belt is back now, and has already hit a homer to put him in double digits for the season. Even during his rehab stint, Belt was hitting for massive power, as he clubbed three homers in seven games. Coming off of a thumb injury, even homers in rehab stints are positive as thumb injuries are notorious for sapping a player’s power.

It’s an interesting line to look at this year with Belt, he went from being a high average patient hitter with modest power to what looks similar to a Juan Francisco clone. For what it’s worth, ZiPS doesn’t quite buy into the power boost. While he has 10 homers in his first 152 plate appearances, ZiPS projects just seven over his remaining 216.

Personally, I believe Belt is a better hitter than the grip it and rip it style he has shown this year. On a real life level, his performance last season is almost idealistic for him in real life. For fantasy purposes though, I think my fellow owners are content with the grip it and rip it style as long as he still swipes us a fair amount of bases.

I, along with ZiPS, think the home runs are going to be a bit more sporadic than we have seen so far. He won’t sustain a 23.8% home run per fly ball ratio, even in that park. His average fly ball distance has popped up 10 feet from last season which is certainly a positive, but I don’t see enough improvement there to say his home run per fly ball rate is going to remain this high. The good thing is that he is hitting more fly balls than he has in the past, but only slightly more. In that ballpark, even if he is beefing up and hitting the ball further, I don’t think we should be expecting a 20 homer season for Belt. It doesn’t help that all of his home runs have been pull homers, which are traditionally not very easy to hit in San Francisco.

What I hope from Belt is a bit more plate discipline along with his increased power. What I expect is for him to look more like he did last year in terms of average, BABIP, and OBP with only modest increases in power going forward. Better plate discipline, which he has shown often in the past, should lead to more opportunities for line drives – which are down – and less reliance on solely home runs for offensive production. I would definitely not say I am disappointed in what I have received from Belt this year, injury aside, but I believe he can and will be better going forward. He is an interesting guy to target if you are in need of corner infield help. I would grab him now as he has shown his power is not sapped from his broken thumb and because the smoke from his hot start has faded. It may be difficult to pry him from someone who has waited for him this long, but he is a quality player and an owner of him deserves a quality player back if you wish to acquire his services.

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Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.

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Sorry to keep criticizing all your columns, Ben, but Brandon Belt has always been a highly aggressive swinger. Of all players with 450+ PAs in 2012, only Josh Hamilton swung on pitches in the zone at a higher percentage than Belt’s 81.4%. Since entering the league in 2011, Brandon is tied for the fourth highest Z-Swing% in the majors at 79.5%. As I’ve noted on FanGraphs several times before, Belt’s profile is incredibly similar to Freddie Freeman’s.

The only real change has been an exchange of contact rate for more power, somewhat similar to Carlos Gonzalez’s similar change last season and potentially indicating a conscious choice to swing harder.


He also is well below his walk rate of 9.6% which is what I believe the author was referencing