August 21, 2012
First, Third, and DH for 8/21/12
Belt continued his fine month this past week with a .348/.423/.391 line that balanced three strikeouts with two walks in 26 plate appearances. That small sample reflects several positive trends in August, when he’s hit .412/.483/.529 with an awesome 8.6 percent K% and 10.3 percent BB% that more closely resembles the Brandon Belt who spent seven weeks on the VP list this season. During that earlier VP stretch, he hit .271/.397/.490, but it was supported by a 23.1 percent K% and a 17.3 percent BB%.
So it looks like Belt is becoming more aggressive at the plate while making better contact—an excellent combination for a young hitter and an indication that he’s seeing pitches well and attacking them. As further proof, Belt whiffed more than twice in a game 24 times this year, including an eight-game stretch to finish out July when he fanned 15 times in 32 plate appearances. In his 16 games in August, however, Belt has yet to strike out more than once.
His improved contact is further illustrated by his 33 percent line drive rate and 26 percent ground ball rate this month—both representing season bests. A .457 BABIP since the calendar turned from July points towards a potential correction in Belt’s future, which will become part of a season that’s been the kind of roller coaster ride one expects from a young hitter. Belt’s .296/.400/.563 June is sandwiched between a .203/.338/.313 May and a .186/.266/.214 July—OPS swings of more than 300 and 400 points that have frustrated impatient owners and returned him to many league waiver wires.
Despite those low marks, Belt has shown his ability to adapt amidst pennant-race pressure, rumors of a trade-deadline swap to Seattle, and the presence of Pill (who is probably a bitter Pill after starting just once since August 4). Belt’s power has yet to show itself—he hasn’t homered since June 23—but I take that as a sign he’s not trying to pull everything. Players with Belt’s talent and opportunity are tough to find at this time of the year, making him a great pickup in all mixed leagues, while keeper owners should already have him rostered.