Good for the San Francisco Giants! Yes, they're the defending World Series champs and currently in first place in the NL West, but on Monday the right side of their infield featured Aubrey Huff at first base and Mike Fontenot at second base. Not that there's anything wrong with that I suppose, but ... let's just say those fellows have contributed to the team's No. 25 ranking in the big leagues in runs scored.
That's why Giants fans -- and fantasy owners -- should take a look at Wednesday's box score when Brandon Belt should be in there at first base while journeyman Jeff Keppinger mans second base. Yes, I have blogged about these fellows before. In fact, I praised then-Houston Astros No. 3 hitter Keppinger on Monday! Now he's a Giant, having been acquired for two minor league pitchers Tuesday. In short, because I really shouldn't be blogging about Keppinger more than once a week, he's likely to hit second in San Francisco, still hit lefties better than right-handers, knock in fewer runs but hopefully, because of the other move the Giants made Tuesday, will score more.
That's because Belt is a far better offensive player, a rookie first baseman many of us have raved about since last fall. Giants first basemen rank 25th in baseball with a .674 OPS, highlighted by a .297 on-base percentage. Huff, surprisingly valuable for much of last season, is hitting .232 with his OPS down 247 points. It's looking like he's back on the every-other-year track, which means you don't want him. The Giants need to score more. Enter Belt.
I realize Belt is hitting .230 in 61 at-bats and some of you have concerns. I do, too. For one, he's had a few chances previously this season. In April, he hit .184 to lose the job the Cody Ross injury had afforded him. The lefty-hitting Belt is batting .186 off right-handed pitching. So what if he's raked in the minor leagues? Lots of people do that. As for opportunity, we've heard about it before, and it was quickly lifted.
Then on Tuesday, Belt was brought up from Triple-A Fresno and homered off Los Angeles Dodgers rookie right-hander Rubby De La Rosa in the second inning. In the seventh, he guided a Hong-Chih Kuo pitch -- he's a lefty -- down the left-field line for a two-run double. Belt can hit, I've been saying/writing for months, and now he seems to be in a better frame of mind.
"That was a big goal for me, to bring the confidence that I had down [in the minors] up to the plate up here," said Belt, who also missed time this season with a fractured left wrist. "The first time I was up here I was definitely a little bit overwhelmed, but since I've been up here, I'm starting to relax a little bit more."
Well, let's hope so. Let's also hope the Giants play the guy, because the argument can easily be made Belt is the team's No. 2 offensive option, after Pablo Sandoval. Perhaps Huff, due to financial reasons, keeps playing first base, but Belt can play the corner outfield. Pat Burrell, one of the previous impediments, is on the DL. An outfield of Belt, Andres Torres and Nate Schierholtz/Cody Ross would make sense but ... ah, the Giants still have too many bodies! Belt should be one of them.
I'd add Belt in standard leagues right now. In fact, in one of my leagues I've done so on four separate occasions this season. I'm not implying this is Albert Pujols, but I liked him better than Freddie Freeman back in March. Eric Hosmer, too. I could see Belt, Freeman and Hosmer all being top-15 first basemen the rest of the season, and in 2012.
• As for Schierholtz, who was hitting cleanup Tuesday, I'm not convinced he warrants everyday duty by the Giants, nor fantasy league attention. He's hitting .358 in July with three home runs and 11 RBIs, so he's performing better than Ross. This should be a right field platoon; Schierholtz is anemic against lefties, but productive against right-handers, and the right-handed-hitting Ross has an .878 OPS against lefties. Do the right thing, Giants!
• Sandoval looks terrific at the plate, now having reached base in 27 consecutive games. He left Tuesday's game with a tight quad, but is expected to play Wednesday. Sandoval famously hit .330 with big power as a rookie in 2009, and last season saw his OPS drop more than 200 points. This season, healthy and a bit more svelte, he's not quite back to 2009 form, but he's a starting third baseman in every fantasy league. Watch him hit 20 home runs and knock in 75 despite missing six weeks with a broken bone in his right wrist; this month he's hitting .364 with 16 RBIs.
• I can't make a great case to own Fontenot in fantasy, though he might become the team's shortstop in the wake of the Miguel Tejada injury and DL stint. Rookie Brandon Crawford is hitting .201. The Giants aren't getting offense at shortstop or behind the plate, so they should be active at the trade deadline. Man, add Jose Reyes to this team at short and ... let's not get excited. But I did notice this team has 60 stolen bases in 98 games. A year ago, the Giants stole 55 bases all year. If Emmanuel Burriss were ever given a shot to play regularly, he could run a lot. He's stolen four bases in the past week, though he's not much of a hitter.