With Huff under contract, what happens to Brandon Belt?

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Like I said a few minutes ago, the Aubrey Huff contract is not a terrible one. I had visions that the Giants would give him four years or something crazy, but two years plus an option is not a bad deal for the guy.  The one question it raises, however, is what the Giants should/will do about first base prospect Brandon Belt.

Belt, for those who don’t know, was a 2009 draftee who spent 2010 rocketing his way through the Giants system. He began in High-A ball where he played 77 games, moved on to Double-A where he played 46 more and then spent 13 games at Triple-A.  He raked at all three stops, with OPSs of 1.121, 1.036 and .956, respectively.  He turned heads in the Arizona Fall League this year as well.  Most who have seen him believe he’ll rake in the big leagues, and that he stands a chance at being a plus-defender at first base.

But Huff’s there for now.  And for now, that won’t matter.  Given that the Giants didn’t call Buster Posey up until late in 2009, hardly played him and then let him sit in the minors for the first two months of 2010, there’s a decent chance that Belt doesn’t sniff the bigs until next September. And a chance that he doesn’t have a regular job in the bigs until a few months before Huff’s contract is up, at which point Bruce Bochy will figure out how to blend them together.

But even if the Giants decide to promote Belt earlier than they did Posey, things could still work out.  Huff played 46 games in left field last year and a few more in right.  He could certainly do it again. Would it be ideal? Nah, but they lived with and won a World Series with Pat Burrell manning left field last season, and there’s no way Huff could be worse out there, can there?  Even if he’s a total liability, Bochy proved more than content to use defensive replacements early and often for Burrell, so he’d be able to do the same with Huff.

So, no, I don’t see the Huff deal as somehow blocking Brandon Belt. Mostly because, if Brian Sabean’s form holds,  he won’t be in San Francisco to be blocked for a while.  And even if he is, there are ways to deal with it.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.