Since his name became a mainstay on yearly top prospect lists, Brandon Belt has been the center of attention for many San Francisco Giants fans. Drafted in the fifth round of 2009, Belt broke onto the scene in 2010 in just 77 games in High Class A. In his short time there, he had a wOBA of .483 and a wRC+ of 190 over 334 plate appearances before getting the call to Class AA ball.
Flash forward just one year, and Belt found himself playing for the big league club at age 23 after breezing through a short stint in Class AAA. His swift transition might have been too quick, though, as he struggled a bit in his first taste of Major League Baseball.
In 209 plate appearances in 2011, he posted a wOBA of just .316 and a wRC+ just over league average at 103. Those numbers aren't bad, of course, especially when you consider his power numbers—23.22 PA/HR and a .187 ISO—but, for a player who had just been "belting" his way through the minor leagues, it wasn't a particularly auspicious start.
While Belt didn't take a huge step forward during the following season, he did manage to make some progress. His power was down—a .146 ISO was fairly uncharacteristic for a player who had an ISO over .200 during 922 minor league plate appearances—but his overall offensive production improved, posting a wOBA of .339 and a wRC+ of 118.
Last season, however, Belt did take a large leap forward. It seemed as though things were starting to click, especially in the second half of the season. Take a look at his first half and second half split from last year:
While the drastic increase in BABIP may help to explain the increase in production across the board, it isn't necessarily surprising to see Belt boast a high BABIP. In both 2012 and 2013, in a combined 1,043 plate appearances, Belt had a .351 BABIP, trailing only 11 qualified players with higher BABIPs over that time span. And, during his 922 minor league plate appearances, Belt had a BABIP that hovered around .400.
How has Belt maintained such a high BABIP, though? As Beyond the Box Score's Alex Skillin "demystified" earlier this year, BABIP is often tied together with line-drive rate, a skill Belt has prominently displayed throughout his short career. Between 2012 and 2013, Belt ranked 11th in line-drive rate with 24.9%, which is, naturally, about where he falls in the BABIP rankings.
And, as a result, Belt has found continued success. His 139 wRC+ last year ranked 19th among all qualified hitters, and his hot start this season-a .375 wOBA and 147 wRC+ through 96 plate appearances-has many remembering why he was once so revered among top prospect lists.
While his tremendous power so far this season—a whopping 13.71 PA/HR puts him behind only Albert Pujols, Jose Abreu, Mark Trumbo, and Michael Morse among qualified hitters—may be a tad inflated due to a 29.2% HR/FB ratio, Belt's offensive prowess is no fluke. He's finally becoming what many scouts believed he eventually would: a Giant.
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All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.
Evan Kendall is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score, co-founder of The Sports Post, and contributor to Athletics Nation. You can follow him on Twitter at @Evan_TSP.