Wednesday, April 23, 2014

IS BRANDON BELT TO BE BELIEVED?

Brandon Belt was one of the guys I targeted late last year in my dynasty 4X4 league.  I picked him up off the waiver wire in September for $3, knowing that with inflation he'd cost $6 this year, and would likely bring good value based on the way he finished the 2013 season.

I first saw Belt at the Arizona Fall League showcase.  I had scouted baseball hardly at all and knew really almost nothing (sometimes still do).... but I noticed Belt right away.  He was 20 years old.  He was composed.  He was patient.  And his swing was a thing of beauty.  No real hitches from what I could tell.  Nothing like the kind of issue scouts spoke of Ike Davis, who had a long load and a slight hitch in the beginning of his swing. 

As a guy who has touted Belt and owns him, I thought I'd examine his numbers.  I wasn't as happy as I wanted to be.

Belt's been on a HR tear
Belt has started the 2014 campaign auspiciously to say the least.  In 2013, of his 17 home runs, only six came at home and only three came against LHPs.  Already in 2014, Belt has pounded seven home runs, six have come on the road, one at home and two against LHPs.  With a .305 batting average to boot, it would seem Belt is about to surpass his career totals. Not so fast.  While he may surpass 17 home runs, his numbers will need to improve vastly in some areas for this 'breakout' season to continue.

His seven home runs in MAR/APR is a career high, and the first number that jumps out at you is Belt's HR/FB which is 24 percent (that number climbed to 27 percent today with his seventh) -- it's simply unsustainable, especially when you notice he's hitting just 35 percent of his balls in the air (FB%).  He's still primarily a ground ball hitter, putting nearly 41 percent of the balls he puts in play on the ground.  His contact rate is down almost six percent from last year.  He's swinging at more pitches outside the zone and contacting them less, and his swinging strike percentage is up four percent.  He's also traded some line drives for more ground balls, which works well for his BABIP, which is currently spot on with his career rate of .339.  One other thing to note, almost all of his other hits have been singles, and many of them on the ground.

The future face of Belt and owners if things don't change.
None of these numbers bode well for him to continue at this prodigious rate for power.

It's still early enough for these numbers to shift a little bit in his favor in terms of FB rate, contact and the amount he swings and misses.  However, without a trend that way, expect Belt's power numbers to start plummeting back to earth soon. 

This doesn't mean you should sell just yet, but he is certainly starting to look like a sell-high candidate in the near future.