Brandon Belt was dealt a tough hand of cards this year -- after being thrown into the proverbial fire as the Giants starting first baseman at the age of 22, he struggled some (a lot?) in his first stint with the big-league club.
So much so, in fact, that San Fran shipped him down to Fresno ... on his 23rd birthday. (Um, ouch.)
It's even more painful if you caught the clip of Showtime's "The Franchise," where Belt's informed that he's made the opening day roster. That's because he proceeds to weep semi-awkward, happy tears right in the middle of Bruce Bochy's office.
Which is also where the Showtime crew apparently filmed him finding out he wasn't going to stay with the club past his birthday. (Ouch times two.)
"It was a great experience," Belt said after finding out about his demotion. "Even though it didn't go my way, it was a lot of fun. It gave me an idea of what to expect when I get back. I fully expect to be back up here ready to go, sooner rather than later."
But the problematic way in which his situation was handled shouldn't keep him from holding his head up high.
Why's that, you ask? Well, I have reasons.
For starters, he's only 23. And, as such, his prospects for a long, good life of baseball are pretty darn good. Most of the baseball-loving people in America would kill for a chance to dominate the bigs beginning at -- worst case -- age 24.
Secondly, was his offense the actual problem? Well, maybe. As Joe Pawlikowski at FanGraphs points out, Aubrey Huff "has been only slightly better than Belt" offensively.
Yes, it's a small sample size, but the devil's advocate in me will counter with: "So are Belt's struggles." Stats might not tell the whole story in this particular instance though; Huff signed a pretty pricey contract -- two years, $22 million -- in the offseason, and the Giants clearly understand that they need to maximize the value of that deal by at least not having Huff sink the team with his outfield play.
While we're talking about the notion of value, it definitely warrants mentioning that Belt, by heading back down to the minors, will likely stay under club control a little bit longer than he would have if he'd stuck around.
Though the team surely wasn't rooting for him to swing the bat poorly enough to warrant being sent to Fresno, it's not necessarily a terrible thing, financially speaking, if Belt spends another 20 days or more down there, as his free agency will be delayed until after 2017, instead of 2016.
Then there's Belt's actual play, which really wasn't that awful. As Kevin O'Brien of the excellent Crazy Crabbers notes, Belt notched good discipline numbers while sipping on his first cup o' joe, in that he exhibited a substantial batting eye and patience at the plate.
This is reflected in the fact that he walked eight times in 60 plate appearances, which equals out to a 13.3 percent walk rate, good for 34th in the bigs thus far into the season. (Again, small sample size, but still impressive from such a young player.)
So, basically what I'm saying here is that Belt should finish enjoying his birthday and then go out and rake in the Pacific Coast League, where the offense is practically on a buy-one, get-one-free basis. He's got plenty of time to succeed on the big-league level, and as long as he keeps doing what he's been doing and refines his game at Triple-A, Giants fans will see him soon again soon enough.