Just about two years ago, Brandon Belt was a hot topic among fantasy enthusiasts, and with good reason. The young Giants first baseman had just blown through three levels of the minors in 2010, finishing with a combined .352 BA, 24 HR and 112 RBI. In 2011, he picked up right where he left off hitting .309 with 8 HR and 32 RBI in just 165 AB before getting called up to the majors. In 187 big league AB, Belt did show some power (9 HR), but overall he struggled, batting only .225 and striking out at an alarmingly high rate (57). 2012 was an even more puzzling year for Belt. In 411 AB in SF, he raised his average (.275) and walks (54) while lowering his strikeout rate (106). The question is: did he make these adjustments at the cost of all his punch (7 HR)? When looking at all of these numbers as a whole, I get the feeling that Belt felt that striking out too often was a quick way for him to head back to AAA, and so he toned his swing down a bit.
The key to Belt’s success in 2013 is regular playing time. He is pretty much the same player against both RHP and LHP, and a full-time starting job should give him the confidence to finally let it fly and be the slugger that he can be. If the Giants commit to Belt as their everyday first baseman, I see him taking a larger step forward and delivering numbers closer to what we saw from him in the minors.
UPSIDE: .280, 22 HR, 85 RBI
ROTOBALLER.COM BREAKOUT RATING: 7/10 - Solid though not overwhelming chance that he reaches this upside.
When Starling Marte got his shot with Pittsburgh in 2012 he responded by hitting .257 with 5 HR, 17 RBI and 12 SB in 167 AB. Many considered these numbers to be a disappointment considering the hype around the rookie. After looking closely at his minor league numbers, I would disagree with that assessment. Marte was hitting .282 with 12 HR and 22 SB in 393 AB at the time of his call up. Solid numbers for sure, but by no means earth-shattering. In fact, in his entire minor league career, he has never held a .400 OBP. The point here is that this a free-swinging speedy player, and his major league stats basically mirror what he did in the minors. It's important to remember that not every rookie takes the league by storm a la Mike Trout or Stephen Strasburg. Marte’s 2012 was not a disappointment, but a normal year in the maturing process of a young player. The best thing about Marte is that speed doesn’t go into slumps, so even if he struggles with batting average and power numbers, he should still be able to steal 30 bases easily with regular playing time. I look for him to take a step forward this year.
UPSIDE: .275, 10 HR, 55 RBI, 85 R, 34 SB
ROTOBALLER.COM BREAKOUT RATING: 6/10 - Decent chance he reaches this upside.
Back in 2009, if Cubs officials were asked what their major league outfield would look like in three years, it definitely would have included Brett Jackson. Jackson cruised through the lower levels of the minors, showing off a high average with both power and speed. He never hit below .295 while consistently posting an OBP around .400. He seemed to be on the fast track to be a major league star.
Unfortunately, things went downhill from there. In two seasons at AA, Jackson only hit a combined .266 while striking out a whopping 137 times in 474 AB. While he still managed to show some speed and power, his home runs at stolen bases were halved compared to his A-level performance. Nevertheless, the Cubs pushed on with Jackson, sending him to AAA in mid-2011, with very similar results. In just under 600 AB at the AAA level, Jackson has hit only .269 with 14 HR and 33 SB. Those numbers wouldn't be so terrible if they didn’t include an amazing 222 K. In Jackson’s brief appearance at the major league level in 2012 he showed more of the same, hitting a meager .175 and striking out 59 times in 120 AB.
Jackson is clearly overmatched by advanced pitching and I don’t see anything changing without a complete overhaul of his swing and approach. I don’t see him as much more than a career minor leaguer or possible pinch runner/defensive replacement as things stand now.
ROTOBALLER.COM BREKAOUT RATING: 1/10 - Almost no chance Jackson breaks out in the MLB this year.
Read RotoBaller.com's prospect raankings series for deeper analysis of some even younger guys who could contribute in 2013. Part I, Part II and Part III should give you all the information you need for your non-keeper league draft endgame.