Giants top prospect Brandon Belt likely headed for Triple-A

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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.

Jim Crane thought the heat over sign-stealing would blow over by spring training

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The Astros’ sign-stealing story broke in November, a steady drumbeat of coverage of it lasted through December and into January, when Rob Manfred’s report came out about it. The report was damning and, in its wake, Houston’s manager and general manger were both suspended and then fired.

After that a steady stream of media reports came out which not only made the whole affair seem even worse than Manfred’s report suggested, but which also suggested that, on some level, Major League Baseball had bungled it all and it was even worse than it had first seemed.

Rather than Manfred and the Astros putting this all behind them, the story grew. As it grew, both the Red Sox and Mets fired their managers and, in a few isolated media appearances, Astros’ players seemed ill-prepared for questions on it all. Once spring training began the Astros made even worse public appearances and, for the past week and change, each day has given us a new player or three angrily speaking out about how mad they are at the Astros and how poorly they’ve handled all of this.

Why have they handled it so poorly? As always, look to poor leadership:

Guess not.

In other news, Crane was — and I am not making this up — recently named the Houston Sports Executive of the Year. An award he has totally, totally earned, right?