Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/18/14

The San Francisco Giants have finally committed to Brandon Belt. Now the team has to figure out how to best use him.

After finishing 29th in runs last season, the Giants were in desperate need of some offense. While Belt’s transition to the majors last year wasn’t all that impressive, his .343/.457/.596 line in the minor leagues proved that he’s more than capable of being an above-average hitter for the Giants. Despite Belt’s eye-popping numbers, manager Bruce Bochy said that the 23-year-old will platoon with Brett Pill to open the season—and move Aubrey Huff to the outfield. Despite the fact that Belt hit .348/.412/.522 against lefties last season — albeit, in just 51 plate appearances — the Giants think he needs more work against same-handed pitchers. Belt, however, did show a platoon split in 2010. Pill, on the other hand, has generally been better versus lefties during his time in the minors. When you consider those stats — and the fact that Belt is on the better half of the platoon — the strategy could actually work in the Giants’ favor.

Unfortunately, this strategy also prevents Belt from facing lefties. If the Giants want him to improve against left-handed pitching, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to hide him from lefties. And for Belt to fulfill his status as a prospect, he can’t be a part-time player. With Buster Posey also slated to get some time at first base, that could cut into Belt’s usage. Belt could play left field at times, but Huff is currently slated to play there.

While it’s imperative that Posey gets as many at bats as possible, Belt has a higher ZiPS projection than both Huff and Pill.

Player AVG OBP SLG wOBA Brandon Belt 0.268 0.365 0.452 0.356 Aubrey Huff 0.261 0.329 0.422 0.325 Brett Pill 0.267 0.298 0.412 0.306

According to ZiPS, Belt should probably replace Huff in left field when Posey starts at first. And based on the poor projection for Pill, Belt should probably be the full-time first baseman, too.

By platooning Belt and Pill, the Giants have decided to make Huff the full-time left fielder. The Giants attempted this last season and got disastrous results. In 86 innings as a right fielder, Huff posted a -9.1 UZR — good for a -125.0 UZR/150, which is almost too improbable to write. Now, no one should draw firm conclusions from a sample size of less than 100 innings in the field, but every bit of evidence suggests he’s been a comically bad outfielder.

The Giants did try Belt in the outfield last season, and while he wasn’t great, he was an improvement from Huff. (Belt had a pulse and generally ran in the same direction as the ball.) From a defensive standpoint, San Francisco is going to give up a lot of runs in left if Huff plays there the entire season — but of course that’s not likely since no manager could stand to watch Huff play the outfield for extended periods and convince himself that this it was a sound plan.

If the Giants want to utilize their best hitters while also employing the best possible defense, they might want to consider playing Huff at first and Belt in left a little more often. But it’s not that easy. Both players are more susceptible to injury in the outfield, and keeping Belt healthy is far more important than keeping Huff healthy. As awful as it sounds, if you’re going to risk the health of one of the two, it should probably be the end-of-his-career veteran in the last year of his contract.

The Giants made the right decision by promoting Belt to the majors, but how he’s used isn’t quite as straightforward. While a Belt-Pill platoon might work, it also prevents Belt from improving against left-handed pitchers. At the same time, playing Belt at first means that the Giants will have to suffer through the Aubrey Huff experience in left field. While the optimal alignment for the Giants might involve Belt playing the outfield, it’s unclear if the team is willing to put him out there, or what the constant position switching might do to his development.

Brandon Belt certainly deserves to be in the majors. How the Giants choose to use him will play a big role in whether they make the playoffs.


GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Corey Brewer: We got our butt kicked, it was embarrassing

Brian Kelly hints Notre Dame will have fast offense

John Madden: Last play of Super Bowl will 'torment' Pete Carroll

Cristiano Ronaldo nets hat trick, sets career high for goals

WATCH: Cormier tells Jones to get his s-- together

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Fans holding 'Free Tom Brady Rally' at Gillette Stadium

Josh Hamilton to be activated by Rangers

WATCH: Top CB recruit makes insane catch doing backflip

Biggest surprises of the MLB season

Marcus Mariota leads NFL in jersey sales for May

Report: Scott Skiles frontrunner for Magic coaching job

Seahawks fan starts GoFundMe for Russell Wilson's contract

Billy Donovan thanks Florida fans with full-page ad

WATCH: Daniel Cormier gets into it with Ryan Bader

Jim Harbaugh compares his driving to Jeff Gordon's

WATCH: High school seals win with perfect hidden ball trick

Warriors crush Rockets in Houston to take 3-0 series lead

WATCH: D'Angelo Russell whiffs on horrible golf swing

Brian Matusz ejected for having foreign substance on arm

PHOTO: Don Cherry wears wild suit even for his taste

PHOTOS: Gigantic sinkhole at Jack Nicklaus golf course

WATCH: Memphis player catches defense sleeping, scores

WATCH: Astros turn around-the-horn triple play

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Kelly drops hint about ND offense

John Madden: Last SB play will 'torment' Carroll

Eight biggest surprises of the MLB season

Bryan Price ejected before first pitch

Vin Scully narrates marriage proposal

Pats fan's obituary defends Brady

Marlins players skip own charity event

John Wall tells All-NBA Team voters to ‘keep sleeping’

Jim Kelly: No doubt Tom Brady cheated

Post-combine NBA Draft big board: Top 30

Ex-players sue NFL for conspiring to push painkillers

Astros surprising, but can get better with Correa

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.