Why 2013 Could Be The Year Of The Brandon’s For The San Francisco Giants
I’m back from my annual Spring Training trip where I was visiting with the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. In my time there, I walked away mightily impressed with what I saw from the defending champs, who looked poised to make another run at a World Series title.
I got to watch 4 games with the Giants (finishing 3-1 in that span) and the two players that stood out to me and are primed for breakout yours were: Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. While their stories were well-chronicled – young players helping their franchise win a World Series Championship – it’s safe to say that there is still a lot left to be desired in regards to their potential as productive ballplayers. From what I saw in Spring Training out of them, that desired could be fulfilled this season, which is why 2013 could be the Year of the Brandon’s for the San Francisco Giants.
Let’s first start with Brandon Belt, who was arguably the best player I saw while at Spring Training. Coming into the 2012 season after a rocky 2011 rookie debut, Belt was still thought of as a highly regarded prospect. He had a steady year stats wise, finishing the season with a .275 AVG, 47 R’s, 27 2B’s, 7 HR’s, 56 RBI’s, .421 SLG, and a .781 OPS. These are good numbers say for a middle infielder batting second or near the bottom of the batting order. But when you play first base and are expected to hit for power in the middle of the order, Belt’s 2012 numbers look quiet ordinary and left many fans wanting more from him. So far this Spring Training, Belt is delivering. In the 7 games Belt has participated in (22 AB’s through Mar. 3rd), he has a .500 AVG, 6 R’s, 1 2B’s, 2 HR’s, 5 RBI’s, .909 SLG, and a 1.409 OPS. Granted, I realize the rule of thumb is to not get too excited about Spring Training numbers and we are dealing with a small sample size, but even during batting practices I observed Belt’s swing looked locked in and his stance was balanced as he was making solid, hard contact with the ball. He is also playing more than any other Giants projected starter as well; getting his more than fair share of AB’s during Spring Training. If Belt can carry this momentum he’s built up this Spring Training and continue to improve and have the type of season the Giants think he can have, Belt can really endear himself to an already loyal fan base that has strong affinity for first basemen (Willie McCovey, Will Clark, J.T. Snow, just to name a few).
The second of the two Brandon’s is Brandon Crawford. Crawford is not expected to bring much offensively, as he is known more for what he brings with his glove. He finished the 2012 year with a .248 AVG, 44 R’s, 26 2B’s, 4 HR’s, 45 RBI’s, and a .653 OPS. But what makes 2013 a big year for Crawford is that he has a real possibility of winning the Gold Glove Award at short stop. It could be argued that Crawford should have won the Gold Glove Award for the short stop position last season. There were a number of factors that went into Crawford being snubbed, mainly that Crawford isn’t a house-hold name or a repeat winner of the award, but another factor was that his offense numbers weren’t spectacular. The last five winners of the Gold Glove Award at short stop for the NL were Jimmy Rollins (2008, 2009, and 2012) and Troy Tulowitzki (2010, 2011). The first time Rollins won the award, it was the same year he won the NL MVP Award. He would subsequently win the next two Gold Gloves and then again last year. While Rollins’ offensive numbers where decent, they weren’t anything close to when he won the MVP, but the fact that he was a repeat winner of the award gave him a leg-up amongst the competition. The same goes for Tulowitzki. When he won his two Gold Gloves, he was arguably the best offense short stop in the game, making the All-Star team those years and finishing 5th in the MVP voting in 2010, and 8th in 2011. I’m not here to discredit Rollins or Tulowitzki as defensive short stops, but it didn’t hurt that their offensive numbers were above-average the years they won. Now I’m not saying Brandon Crawford has to win the NL MVP or even make the All-Star team to win the Gold Glove Award, but if he can just raise his AVG up from .248 to somewhere around .260-.265 and still field the way he did last season, it would go a long way as he tries to separate himself from the other short stops in the NL.
There is no doubt that 2012 was a very special year for the San Francisco Giants; highlighted by their amazing run through the postseason to win the World Series, and Buster Posey winning the NL MVP. The band is back together again to defend their championship, but it won’t be an easy task and they are going to need some help. What better way to answer that call for help than with the addition of a power-hitting first baseman and a Gold Glove winner at short stop. That’s what Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford can offer to the 2013 San Francisco Giants.
Marc Keller is a baseball nut whose two greatest loves in life are his wife and the San Francisco Giants. You can read his blog “Mr. Armchair Speaks” at http://mrarmchair.blogspot.com/ and follow him on Twitter @mrarmchair.