This debate was born last year when Brett Pill decided to kick it into high gear in Fremont and hit .312 with 25 big flies. That’s 14 points and 6 HRs higher than his previous career high. Thanks to that production in the minors, he got the coveted September call up and continued to impress in the big leagues, albeit in a small sample size (50 ABs).
Brandon Belt, on the other hand, proved he could hit at the minor league levels before making the squad out of spring training last year. While he had a much bigger sample size than Pill, it didn’t look quite as impressive, hitting only .225 with 9 HRs in 187 ABs and earning a few thousand Greyhound frequent rider miles along the way.
Now that they are both on the team vying for the same spot, a decision must be made. The opportunities for both to get into the lineup are dwindling now that the OF of Cabrera, Pagan, and Blanco is getting established. And I don’t think anyone wants to hear the dreaded word (I’m talking about “platoon”).
Both are performing slightly sub-par so far this season; Pill is batting .234 with 3 HRs and Belt is at .246 with no long balls, but a team leading 5 doubles. Belt is nearly even in his splits between right and left handed pitchers, while Pill favors righties.
Pill, 27, has taken a while to sprout into a big league ball player. Looking at his career numbers, he never forced the issue. I think the conversations around him would have gone something like “Well, he doesn’t suck, so we can’t send him back down. Let’s just promote him to the next level.” He didn’t force the decision until 6th season when he finally put up some big numbers.
Brandon Belt is just 24, and 3 years is an eternity in the majors. Unlike Pill, he steamed his way through the minors with much better numbers than Pill forcing his promotion to the big show. While he left those numbers in the minors for the time being, it’s not hard to argue that Belt has more upside than Pill.
Extra Baggs and The McCovey Chronicles both present compelling arguments for each player. However, I think this showdown should be decided on what they will potentially do, not what they are doing today. I realize that it is Bochy’s job to win games today and field the most competitive team he has available at the moment. But I think this is a flawed strategy and contributed to the epic crash of 2005, when the Giants fell to 4 straight losing seasons.
Now, if you want my opinion, and the fact that you’ve made it this far tells me you do, I favor Belt. No, this isn’t because he’s younger, or he’s the more highly touted prospect, or because he has won me over with his baby-giraffe-like antics. I like his approach at the plate better. With the new changes to his stance, he is more upright and has more potential to drive the ball into a gap. He has pretty good speed for a first baseman (27 SB in 189 MiLB games) and can take advantage of the dimensions of AT&T park. Remember that he’s leading the team in doubles so far this year. While Pill often takes a better approach with 2 strikes on him, all other times he gets up there and hacks. He reminds me somewhat of John Bowker at the plate. Big strong hacks, and if he connects he’s likely to do damage. We’ve seen these types come and go more times than we would like to remember at this ballpark; they don’t work. So why don’t we go with someone who can compliment the ballpark and take advantage of the gaps.
Random stat: Aubrey Huff had the second most steals for the Giants in 2010. 7 steals in 7 attempts.