Giants Will Have to Depend on Belt and Crawford in 2013


In the wake of the Dodgers’ spending spree, the Giants can’t do much to counter their rivals. Sure, they can add a Ben Francisco-type asset to pair with Gregor Blanco in left field, or an extra reliever to bolster the depth of their bullpen. But truth be told, general manager Brian Sabean will fall vastly short if he elects to reopen his wallet, which he won’t.

So, the only wise move would be to simply hope that Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt progress substantially in 2013. Luckily, there’s a good chance of that happening.

The Brandon’s both settled in as the season progressed last year. You wouldn’t have to boast a razor-sharp scout-esque eye to see that they were beginning to establish themselves as major leaguers.

Statistically, Belt compiled an .884 OPS over the final two months of the season (55 games), while Crawford posted a .725 OPS. Also, instead of platooning, both fully took over shortstop and first base, respectively, which became a pattern during the postseason as well.

The Giants philosophy to produce quality players out of their now thin farm system is a well-known phenomenon by now. Just look, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, and many more all sprouted through the roots of the Giants’ system, and now obviously form the core of the major league team. I’d presume that management would like Belt and Crawford to follow a similar path to success, particularly Belt, whose had a shade more experience than Crawford.

Barring any significant changes, though, first base will be Belt’s job from the get-go. This will certainly be unfamiliar territory for Belt, who won the job on the spot in 2011, forcing Aubrey Huff to the outfield. That experiment didn’t pan out too well, as Belt bounced between the minors and majors while Huff bounced between the disabled list and bench.

Then in 2012, Belt still didn’t solely have the job to himself. Of course when Aubrey Huff proved that he was entirely depleted and there was exactly no hope of him returning to 2010 form, Belt then started to see a spark in playing time. But when he struggled offensively, Buster Posey took over at first base due to the slim trust level between Belt and Bruce Bochy. Although, the skipper tends to give a short leash to all young players, so Belt shouldn’t be singled out.

In 2013, however, the assurance that Bochy will believe in the “Baby Giraffe” without being too quick to replace him if he makes mistakes, should bolster Belt’s confidence, and eventually his overall production.

So frankly, increased production from the Brandon’s would be sort of like adding a free agent when you look at it from that angle. Granted, Belt and Crawford’s reputations can’t merely match those on the Dodgers’ roster, but that side of the story is irrelevant. It’s about the end result, right?

Bill James’ Projection system has Belt hitting 16 home runs, triple slashing for .282/.374/.463, and driving in 74 runs next year. I’d say that’s a pretty fair projection. It might be a little too much.

The one figure that should be noted as well, is the fact that the system projects Belt to receive nearly 500 at-bats in 2013, which would be close to 100 more than his 2012 total. Presumably, most of those would be in starts instead of off the bench. And yes, scattered at-bats as opposed to four at-bats per game makes a difference, in case you were wondering. It’s simply a mental thing.

As for Crawford, he is projected to triple slash for .245/.306/.351. For reference, this past season he compiled a .248/.304/.349 slash. To sum up the main numbers, he is projected to hit for a tad more power (six home runs vs. four in 2012), and create a tad more havoc on the base paths. Now, these projections aren’t always exact. In fact sometimes they are way off base. However, it’s up to Crawford to prove the latter point, as currently he isn’t predicted to progress next year which would be quite a bummer for the Giants.

While the Dodgers vaunt a cash flow that seems unstoppable, their National League Western division rivals bank on their youth to mature going forward. Their approach surely isn’t garnering the headlines, but could eventually be wiser when all the dominos fall.