Last year Brandon Belt led all minor leaguers in OPS during his first pro season, batting .352 with 76 extra-base hits, 22 steals, and 93 walks in 136 games while playing at three different levels, but yesterday Giants general manager Brian Sabean indicated that the 23-year-old first baseman will likely begin 2011 back at Triple-A.
Sabean didn’t rule out Belt forcing his way into the team’s Opening Day plans, but made it clear to Chris Haft of MLB.com that the 2009 fifth-round pick will be facing an uphill battle:
You don’t want a young player, or potentially a player that’s going to burst on the scene, [coming] to spring training and [having] no chance. You have to give them some hope that you’re going to be open-minded. Having said that, I probably expect him to start in Triple-A, and we’ll be conservative. But you can’t kill his enthusiasm or his will to want to make the team. He’ll have to force his way into this mix through his performance.
San Francisco didn’t call up Buster Posey until May 29 last season and he was an even better, more MLB-ready prospect than Belt, so most likely he’ll have to beat up on Triple-A pitching for a couple months before potentially taking over as the Giants’ first baseman and pushing Aubrey Huff to left field.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.