10 position battles worth watching
March, 12, 2012
By Jim Bowden | ESPN Insider
AP Photo/Eric RisbergBrandon Belt is eliminating holes in his swing, but Aubrey Huff's still likely to keep the first-base job.
VIERA, Fla. -- As the halfway mark of spring training arrives, some positional battles have taken shape. Often it's a fine line between giving a young kid with great upside the starting job or playing it safe with a proven veteran. It's not an easy decision, and one that could easily impact a team's early fortunes as well the career momentum of a young player. Here are 10 positional battles to watch in the latter half of spring training.
FIRST BASE: Brandon Belt and Aubrey Huff
The Giants were concerned about Belt’s inability to hit the inside fastball during his rookie season, which had been his weak spot going back to college. Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens moved him off the plate late last year, which then caused problems on outside pitches and breaking balls under his hands. So Belt played winter ball in the Dominican Republic to work on his swing and came to camp with the mechanical adjustments he needed to make to get to that pitch and cover the whole strike zone.
Huff had a disappointing season for the Giants, appeared out of shape and in possible decline. However, he came into camp in terrific shape this year to make sure he doesn’t lose his job. General manager Brian Sabean and skipper Bruce Bochy said Huff is the front-runner at first base and Belt would have to be much better than Huff to win the job. Indeed, Sabean and Bochy tend to lean toward veterans. However, this is also a team in dire need of middle-of-the-order bats to help Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey. Belt has a chance to be one of those guys. But he needs 500 at-bats in a season to be given a chance to develop into that type of productive hitter. The Giants will probably start Huff, but I’d rather give the full-time job to Belt.
My choice: Belt
Likely winner: Huff