I look at all kinds of stats to find sleepers for next year. Brandon Belt was one name that came up on a lot of different searches through last year’s numbers. No, smart guy, I wasn’t searching “Players that have disappointed year after year.” Belt had the ninth best for Hard Contact Percentage. Like a bar stool, that’s right behind Miguel Cabrera. It’s not surprising that Belt was top ten for the majors last year. Belt hit nearly 40% of all balls hard. (Belt hitting balls hard gives me flashbacks to being bent over my grandmother’s lap.) The top guy in the majors for Hard Contact was J.D. Martinez at 42.3%, and the difference between Belt and the top guy overall was about the same as the difference between Belt and AL MVP, Josh Donaldson (37.1%). Guys that Belt hit the ball harder than is a who’s who — Kris Bryant, McCutchen, Votto, Braun, Yoenis, A-Gon, etc. etc. etc. Another stat where Belt popped up on — actually bad choice of words — was Infield Fly Balls percentage. Belt had an 0.8% Infield Fly Ball rate, which was 2nd in the league after Christian Yelich, who didn’t pop up once. Not popping up means you’re hitting the ball solid. Speaking of hitting the ball solid, guess who led the league in Line Drive Percentage. I’ll give you one guess, his name rhymes with Random Melt. It’s Brandon Belt, you dope! For guys who made the weakest contact overall, it’s no surprise that Belt is in the bottom ten, right in front of Mike Trout. For just about every stat for a hitter making solid contact, Brandon Belt places. For the stats that matter for fantasy (HRs/SBs), I’m going to give you two players and one is Belt. 18 HRs/7 SBs vs. 18 HRs/9 SBs. Like Michael Hutchence, Belt is on the latter. Eric Hosmer is the first one. Intrigued yet? I bet you are, you rabid horny fantasy sleeper monger. Anyway, what can we expect from Brandon Belt for 2016 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
The only thing that held Belt back last year, as it had previously, is his health. He feels on the brink of being Joey Votto. Of course, Belt in Great American Ball Park is a whole lot more attractive than in AT&T, and that will likely be the difference between the two next year. Votto will be projected for around 27 homers and Belt will be projected around 17 homers, so can Belt beat those 17 homers? Yes, definitely, indubitably. Last year, he had a 13.6 HR/FB% on a 37.9% fly ball rate. In 2014, he had a 44% fly ball rate and the year before a 41.3%. In 2014, it was a small sample size — that’s what she said! — due to only 61 games played. Can we throw that out? If you answered in the affirmative, I agree. It was a lost year. So, we’re left with 2013. If he had a 41.3% fly ball rate like he had in 2013 last year with the same 13.6% HR/FB, he would’ve had 20 homers last year. Now, I said to throw out 2014, but he had a 18.2 HR/FB that year. If he had a HR/FB% that high with a 41% fly ball rate, he would have 26 homers. These are not numbers that I’m trying too hard to achieve. He’s done them before and he’s only 27 years old. None of this has even accounted for his sneaky speed. He won’t be a 20 steal guy, but 7-10 steals has been his norm. So, a guy that makes great contact, that has sneaky speed and is due to break out with power? Um, yeah, I’m intrigued! For 2016, I’ll give him the projections of 79/21/90/.288/10 and get the sponsorship with Proactiv set up, because the breakout is finally here.