A few weeks back I talked about how I wasn’t huge on Eric Hosmer this year, with one of the bigger reasons being Brandon Belt’s draft spot. To me, while he is a slightly poor man’s version, Belt provides much higher upside with much lower downside. I drafted him two leagues this season, one as a UTIL option behind Jose Abreu and one as the primary 1B with Matt Adams as my primary backup. While I have confidence in him this season, I do think it would be a bit aggressive to own only him as a first base option in a standard format.
Belt played exactly 150 games last season and only one third of those games did he bat in the top third of the order. He hit third 48 times and appeared as a pinch hitter in the leadoff spot and second twice. One of the issues Belt had last year was a lack of run production, which is one of the big driving forces behind production at first base. He had just 76 runs and 67 RBI, which isn’t nothing but certainly isn’t up to par with the top tier first basemen.
This year, Belt appeared in the two hole to start the year, a spot that I think could not be more ideal. Belt’s put together consecutive .360 OBP seasons and if he is going to hit second this year he is a very good bet for 90+ runs, plus he will get more plate appearances which will give him the ability to up his home run total too.
Speaking of which, he hit 39 doubles last year and a .193 ISO. As he enters his age 26 season, it is reasonable to expect some of those doubles to transition into home runs. While ZiPS and Steamer have him at 15 and 16 respectively, I’m thinking he’s a 20 home run or more guy if he gets 600 plate appearances. We saw his power develop a bit last year, and I think that trend continues this season.
The next issue to tackle is his speed. Two years ago he stole 12 bases, making many of us to believe he could be a surprising source of steals with a full season worth of plate appearances. Unfortunately, he stole just five bags in seven chances last season. But again, if the plan is to hit him second this year there is great potential for that number to jump back up to at or near double digits.
I don’t think a “breakout” to the tune of 30 home runs and 15 steals is in order, but I think an average hovering between .280-.300 and 23 home runs with 10 steals is certainly reasonable. Combine that with run totals approaching 100 and an RBI number that should remain decent for a second hitter, and you will have a guy you were happy to have drafted way back in March.
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