With Aoki sidelined, install Belt in LF

Wednesday, June 24

SAN FRANCISCO — Nori Aoki’s temporary replacement in left field could already be on the active Major League roster, and it isn’t Gregor Blanco or Justin Maxwell.

It’s Brandon Belt.

The Giants might have to tolerate an occasional defensive misplay from Belt, who has vastly more experience at first base than he does in left. But the offensive potential that San Francisco would gain by having Belt in left, Buster Posey at first base and Andrew Susac catching eclipses any other alternative.

Simpler, more obvious options abound: Summoning Juan Perez or Jarrett Parker from Triple-A Sacramento and plugging one of them in a corner outfield spot while Blanco or Maxwell occupies the other. Or, playing Blanco in left and Maxwell in right every day.

These are “safe” combinations that would provide adequate defense. And we all know that the Giants are rooted in pitching and defense. For the short term, however, the Giants need to reclaim at least some of the energy they lost with Aoki’s departure due to a fractured right fibula. They’d accomplish that while keeping Belt’s bat in the lineup, receiving possibly enhanced production from Posey, who’s hitting .313 (15-for-48) as a first baseman and .281 (56-for-199) otherwise, and adding Susac, who’s 7-for-16 in his last five games. The Giants already have tried this without dramatic results, but now’s the time to throw full support behind this venture.

This also might be a good opportunity to keep Brandon Crawford in the upper half of the batting order. Previously, he has occupied the sixth, seventh or eighth spots in 54 of 65 starts. Heck, bat Crawford leadoff. He knows what he’s doing up there. Matt Duffy, who seems incapable of NOT getting meaningful hits when called upon, also can help compensate for the void left by Aoki. Manager Bruce Bochy has somewhat fulfilled his promise to elevate Duffy in the batting order. But the rookie third baseman still has hit seventh in five of his last eight starts.

Overcoming the simultaneous absences of Aoki and right fielder Hunter Pence certainly will challenge the Giants. “If we want to be the ballclub we want to be, somebody’s going to have to step up,” ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner said. They have men who can accomplish this, if they’re placed in positions to succeed.

Chris Haft

2 Comments

Could not agree more. Will never happen

How soon they forget! With Ishikawa’s promotion, I think it would be much better to start Belt in LF and Ishikawa at 1B, vs. Posey at 1B and Susac at C.

Ishi is an excellent fielding 1B, and at the moment, probably a better hitter than any of the rookie options listed above, except Susac. And that’s why against LHP, Susac can get starts at C, push Posey to 1B, and Ishi to bench. And when Posey needs to play 1B against RHP, Ishi gets pushed to bench, he’s the starter unless we need otherwise, and especially not against LHP.

But if you put Susac at C and Posey at 1B, you weaken two defensive positions that the Giants have generally prioritized defense at. Particularly at C, we have all see the fuss the Giants have made about Posey staying at C, and most advanced defensive metrics, including getting called strikes, agrees with that assessment. By starting Ishi at 1B, the Giants keep Posey at C and good defense at 1B with Ishi. And offensively, Ishi is better because whoever starts between Ishi and Susac will be batting 7th or 8th, and down in the lineup, SLG is more important than OBP for scoring runs, unless Bochy goes saber and bats Susac 9th. Which he has not been willing to do yet.

And if the Giants have any long term plans for Belt, well, we all know that Posey is moving to 1B at some point, not a matter of if, but when. So I agree with you, start Belt in LF right now. This would give him more experience there so that when the change comes, he’ll have more defensive expertise there. And who knows, look at how long it has taken Pence to return (quick healer?), Aoki could be out for the season, including the playoffs, if there are any complications.

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