If you’re a fantasy baseball player or a fan of the San Francisco Giants (and why the hell wouldn’t you be? they win constantly), you may have noticed something strange over the past five years concerning a certain alliterative first baseman. To wit:
Rant Sports: “Who Will Be The [sic] MLB’s 2011 Breakout Rookie?” (March 31, 2011)
The Press Democrat: “Giants Breakout Pick for 2012: Brandon Belt” (April 5, 2012)
Baseball Prospectus: “14 Choices for 2012 Breakout Players” (February 29, 2012)
SB Nation: “Predicting Breakouts With Spring Training” (March 29, 2012)
CBS Sacramento: “Giants’ Brandon Belt Seems Primed for Breakout Season” (March 27, 2013)
SB Nation: “2013 Power Breakout Candidates” (March 30, 2013)
Sports Illustrated: “Reading Into Spring Training Statistics: Expect Big Things from Belt, Moustakas” (March 29, 2013)
Bleacher Report: “San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt Poised for a Breakout 2013 Season” (November 16, 2012)
Sporting News: “Highlight These 1B Breakouts in Your 2014 Fantasy Baseball Rankings” (February 24, 2014)
Fangraphs: “Is Brandon Belt Due For a Breakout?” (April 1, 2014)
SF Giants Rumors: “Brandon Belt Will Have a Breakout Season, and This is Why” (January 20, 2014)
The Baseball Haven: “2014 Breakout Candidates” (December 28, 2013)
ESPN: “Brandon Belt: Batting Title Contender?” (March 10, 2014)
Fansided: “San Francisco Giants: Who’s Poised for Breakout Year?” (February 6, 2014)
SF Gate: “Shea: Belt Hopes to Provide Healthy Dose of Power” (February 7, 2015)
San Francisco Chronicle: “Belt is Preparing for Breakout 2015” (February 27, 2015)
Fansided: “Brandon Belt Should Enjoy Breakout Season in 2015” (February 11, 2015)
Fantasy Sports Locker Room: “The Price is Right: The Brandon Belt Breakout is Upon Us in 2015” (February 24, 2015)
ESPN: “Is Brandon Belt Ready to Bust Out in 2015?” (March 7, 2015)
Bloguin: “Ten Players Ready to Make The Leap in 2015” (February 27, 2015)
BRANDON BELT IS ETERNALLY BREAKING OUT. The 2015 list will grow as we move closer to Opening Day — A Google search for “Brandon Belt breakout” returns 188,000 results. The twitter dot com search for “Brandon Belt breakout” is pretty fun as well. In honor of the crowned king of the Breakout Year, I’ll be rating this year’s breakout candidates for the Brewers on my brand new Belt-O-Meter™ of Breakout Year potential (scale: 0-5 Belts).
Nelson had been penciled in as the Brewers’ swingman and first man up in the event of an injury to one of the starting pitchers for 2015 until the February trade of Yovani Gallardo to the Rangers thrust him into the Opening Day rotation. The whiplash-inducing struggles of Marco Estrada, who was also traded in the off-season, in 2014 led to a lot of Brewers fans clamoring for Nelson to be promoted early last year, and the Brewers eventually obliged, though Nelson generally failed to impress after dominating at AAA Nashville. However, Nelson has generally taken about a year to get acclimated to a new level throughout his professional career. Nelson was basically unhittable with the Sounds, being named the PCL Pitcher of the Year despite making only 16 starts. The Brewers’ rotation is incredibly thin, especially when considering Matt Garza’s annual trip to the DL — they’re counting on Nelson making a impact in 2015.
Peralta is neck-and-neck with Ryan Braun for Most Important Brewer as far as the Crew’s 2015 fortunes are concerned. While the focus on Braun will be on whether he can finally return to MVP form with a supposedly healthy thumb, the Brewers are basically asking Wily to flash signs that he’ll be able to bust out of the scouts’ consensus that he has a ceiling as a No. 3 pitcher. The Brewers lack a true ace, and most consider the year Wily had last year, when he posted a 17-11 record with a 3.53 ERA, to be pretty close to as good at the 25-year-old right hander is going to get. The Brewers have some potential high-end pitching talent working in the lower levels of their system, but their AAA team is staffed mostly by minor-league lifers and future relievers. To compete in the next couple of years, the Brewers are going to need Peralta to make another leap to something close to a franchise pitcher. Is that realistic, or have we already seen Wily’s ceiling?
Knebel, who came over as part of the package the Brewers received for Gallardo, will most likely start the season at AAA Colorado Springs following the acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez (barf) and the steadily improving health of Tyler Thornburg and Jim Henderson. That should in no way be an indictment against his talent, however, as there’s a very good possibility the 23-year-old is the best reliever in the organization right now, according to @D_J_Harvey at Brew Crew Ball. Knebel projects as a potential high-end closer, and he’ll likely be one of the first injury replacement call-ups this year if he doesn’t break camp with the big league club. BBC Co. endorses the idea that Knebel will negate the need to pick up K-Rod’s option in 2017, thus releasing Milwaukee from it’s six-year fever dream.