The lowdown on FA 1B Brandon Belt

November 9th, 2021

For the better part of 11 years, first baseman Brandon Belt has been a mainstay in the Giants' lineup alongside Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford. After helping the club win two World Series titles in 2012 and 2014, the 33-year-old slugger is now testing the free-agent waters for the first time, having completed the five-year contract extension he signed prior to the 2017 season.

Here’s what you need to know about Belt:

Birthdate: April 20, 1988 (Age 34 in 2022)
Primary position: 1B
Height/weight: 6-foot-3, 231 lbs.
Bats/throws: Left/left
Place of birth: Nacogdoches, Texas
School(s): Hudson (Texas) HS; University of Texas
Drafted: 5th round, 2009, by Giants
MLB debut: March 31, 2011
Qualifying offer: Received one

2021: .274/.378/.597 (160 OPS+), 29 HR, 2.7 WAR* in 97 G
Career: .264/.358/.464 (125 OPS+), 167 HR, 27.2 WAR in 1,232 G
*Per Baseball-Reference

Stat to know
Over the past two years, Belt has really come into his own as a power-hitting first baseman. In 2021, he set a career high with 29 homers despite missing nearly a third of the season. Add in his nine home runs in 51 games from the 60-game 2020 season and Belt has 38 homers and a .595 slugging in 148 games played in that span. He’s hitting the ball with more authority, raising his barrel rate from a career-low 8.7% in 2019 to 17% in 2021, which ranks among the top 15 hitters in the league.

Question mark
Throughout his career, the major knock on Belt hasn’t been his production, but rather his ability to stay on the field. Over the past four full seasons -- not counting the pandemic-shortened 2020 season -- Belt has played more than 115 games in just one of those seasons, including 97 in 2021 following injuries to his thumb, knee and oblique that all required trips to the 10-day injured list.

He's a born leader
Earlier this year, while the Giants were surging to their first NL West title since 2012, Belt took it upon himself to be the team’s captain during a series with the Cubs late in the season. He outfitted his jersey with a ‘C’ made out of electrical tape on his chest to let the world know as well, then went on to slam his 22nd homer of the season and reached base four times during the Sept. 10 matchup when “The Captain” was born. The Giants even took it as far as having Belt dress up as a sea captain before their final flight of the regular season, with their rookies serving as his sailors.

He gets on base
Not only does Belt bring some pop from the left side, he’s also one of the best in the league at getting on base. Since the start of the 2020 season, Belt owns a .393 on-base percentage. That ranks as the eighth-highest rate among all players with at least 200 plate appearances in that span and the second highest among first basemen, behind only 2020 NL MVP Award winner Freddie Freeman. Belt’s walk rate has been in the top 10 percent of the league in five out of six seasons since 2016.

He used to be a two-way player
Prior to his junior season at Texas in 2009, Belt’s skill set wasn't limited to just one side of the diamond. Coming out of high school in 2006, the Red Sox actually drafted Belt as a pitcher in the 11th round, but he chose to head to college instead. For the next two years, Belt found himself in the outfield and on the mound, appearing as a reliever for the Longhorns in his sophomore year. A shoulder injury forced him to take up first base, and the rest is history.

He has a zoo animal named after him
During his debut season in 2011, Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper gave Belt a nickname that has stuck with him throughout his career: "Baby Giraffe." This was due to how the young, lanky Belt looked while playing the outfield, with Kuiper saying he resembled the animal running around. The folks at Six Flags Discovery World in California caught wind of the nickname and decided to name a newborn giraffe after the Giants first baseman in 2013.