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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Brandon Belt Makes Splashy Return

Just before he got beamed on the wrist and missed about a month of action, Brandon Belt was quietly heating up and appeared primed to break out at the Major League level. Now that he's 100% healthy again, he's picked up right were he left off.

Belt carried the Giants on Tuesday night, going 2-4 with with a homer, his 2nd, and 3 RBI to back another strong effort by Madison Bumgarner. Belt got the start at first base in place of the struggling Aubrey Huff, and got the start their in Wednesday's game as well. It should be interesting to see what Bochy and Sabean do now that Belt is back and playing effectively. I doubt the Giants will turn Aubrey Huff into a bench player and keep throwing Belt out at first base, so that means one of them will likely need to move to the outfield for more at-bats. I think we'll eventually see Belt out in left-field, but again, if he's getting regular playing time in the outfield, that means that either Cody Ross or Nate Schierholtz would be out of a spot. That said, Belt is the teams future, and I think Bochy should do whatever is necessary to get this guy into the lineup if he's producing like he did Tuesday night, and if the way he played in Fresno is any indication, Belt isn't going anywhere. This could also change Sabean's trade strategy as we inch closer to the July 31st trade deadline. It was highly speculated that the Giants were focusing on adding another outfield bat, but with Schierholtz's emergence, Belt's promising play and the addition of infielder Jeff Keppinger, Sabean should shift focus to potential catchers.

Speaking of the Keppinger deal, I think it leaves the Giants in excellent shape for these last 2 1/2 months of the season. As I type, they're up 2-0 on the Dodgers after 2 games and have their ace on the hill going for the sweep, they have increased their lead to 4.5 games in the NL West and are are a comfortable 16 games over .500. They're playing extremely well, yet 1/2 the guys in their lineup will tell you they need to pick their game up, so I'd say the Giants are in tremendous shape right now. Pablo Sandoval has started another mini-hit streak and looks as focused at the plate as I've ever seen him. He's spiked his average up to .315 and climbing as he's settled right into the 3 spot in the batting order. The Giants also added Keppinger without having to part with anyone of their top prospects, which gives them a .300 hitting middle infielder on the cheap. I really like this move, as it gives the Giants a true starting 2nd basemen (or shortstop) and allows Mike Fontenot to move to a utility role while Tejada is on the DL. Keepinger will also provide insurance at short in case Brandon Crawford falls off the map again, and will likely get a lot of time there vs. left-handed pitching. Either way, I expect him to be in the lineup and hitting in front of Sandoval in the 2 hole, starting Friday night. Keppinger was hitting .307 with 4 homers and 20 RBI in 160 at-bats with Houston.

Trade Deadline Notes: Well, since we're within striking distance of the MLB trade deadline and there will be tons and tons of rumors thrown out over the next week and a half. The Giants aren't going to stand pat after adding Keppinger, and already Sabean is said to be turning his focus to another player. The Giants could add a center fielder. Andres Torres hasn't had a strong season and the Giants have expressed interest in the Mets' Carlos Beltran and Tampa's B.J. Upton, each center fielders. Then there's the guy said to be at the top of the Giants radar lately, Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer, who Sabean was originally interested in as a 2nd basemen. Sabean could re-visit the idea of adding Cuddyer and playing him at 2nd base, moving Keppinger to shortstop. However, the position I think the Giants will most likely upgrade between now and the 31st is the catcher spot, even if it's only a move to get a back-up to Whiteside with more offensive potential. Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart have had some nice moments, but down the stretch, I'm not so sure that's who the Giants' brass will want behind the plate. Cinciantti's Ramon Hernandez, Florida's John Buck and Seattles Miguel Olivo are likely at the top of the list, so I'd definitely keep an eye on those guys between now and the 31st.
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7 Comments:

  • At 1:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've always liked Keppinger, so I'm glad the Giants got him. He's a really good hitter, I just watched a Astros game a few days ago and Keppinger had 3 hits and a long home run... I think he was hurt early in the year.

     
  • At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Larry said…

    B.J. Upton? Haven't heard that rumor yet. Who would they need to give up to get him?

     
  • At 8:18 PM, Anonymous Noah said…

    I would be more juiced for a move for BJ Upton over Beltran because he's underperforming and still young enough so we could buy cheap with Grade B prospects. Upton has a huge upside and a change of scenery out of the Trop would do wonders for his stick I'd guess.

    Or the Giants could go the blockbuster route and trade the farm for Pence. Too rich for my blood.

    If we could get 2.3 years of solid production out of Beltran, he'd be worth a Wheeler to me. But then again he's 34. Just look at the dive in production Huff took. Good deal for the rest of the season but he's hot but risky over medium term.

    Giants have to think medium term in this season. This would be so much easier without the Rowand and Zito contracts.

     
  • At 8:58 PM, Anonymous Jason Billingsley said…

    I'd rather get Beltran than Upton. I think upton is a bit overrated. His average is always low. He's only good for some homers and stolen bases.

     
  • At 9:09 PM, Anonymous writing a good research paper said…

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