While the questions regarding the Giants final 25-man roster have mostly been limited to backup catcher (Chris Stewart has a .907 OPS in 26 Spring Training PAs!) and long relief (Dan Runzler has a 2.77 ERA and a 6.0 K:BB ratio in 13 IP!), the main “controversy” has revolved around Brandon Belt, the hard-hitting prospect.
Belt, a 22-year-old lefty first baseman from Texas, was drafted by the Giants in the 5th round of the 2009 draft. In 2010, his first year of pro ball, he was promoted quickly: he played just 77 games in Single-A, 46 games in AA, and finished the year playing AAA ball in Fresno. Across the three levels he had an extraordinary slash line of .352/.455/.620 with 23 HR. While these numbers should certainly be taken with a grain of salt, considering that they combine three sets of stats from extremely different leagues, they’re certainly impressive.
So the question is: what should happen to him in 2011?
In the offseason after the 2006 season, the Giants were reeling. Only 3 years after a wire-to-wire season ending in playoff humiliation, they finished just 76-85, good enough for 3rd place, and just half a game above the 4th and 5th place teams. Their ace pitcher Jason Schmidt was leaving for the hated LA Dodgers, leaving the team without a strong pitcher to lead their staff. Noah Lowry, the Giants’ rookie phenom, had spent the year fighting injuries, and his future looked uncertain. Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez were years away from hitting their stride as starting pitchers, and Brian Wilson was an unknown quantity, playing 7th-fiddle to a bullpen led by closer Armando Benitez, who needs no introduction to fans who remember those dark years.
Meanwhile, the front office was facing the unwelcome but inevitable retirement of Barry Bonds, the greatest baseball player of the modern era, who had yet to get himself a World Series ring. Bonds had just come off his first full season without being in the top of MVP voting in 16 seasons (he sat out injured most of 2005), and his mortality was starting to show itself.