Still feeling concussion symptoms, Brandon Belt discusses his future


Still feeling concussion symptoms, Brandon Belt discusses his future

SAN FRANCISCO — On the night that yet another season spiraled out of his hands, Brandon Belt had an eerily prescient conversation with his hitting coach. Belt was on pace to approach 30 homers. A day earlier, he had tied his career-high by crushing his 18th. Hensley Meulens congratulated him and noted that he would easily surpass his previous best. 

“Yeah,” Belt joked, “Unless I get a season-ending injury or something.”

A few hours later, Arizona Diamondbacks rookie Anthony Banda lost command of a curveball and drilled Belt on the side of the helmet. The first baseman went down right away. He hasn’t played since. 

Belt, in a phone interview with NBC Sports Bay Area, acknowledged the obvious: His season almost certainly ended on August 4. He feels better with each passing day, but he is still dealing with lingering problems with his vestibular system and vision. 

The Giants have just 20 games left and Belt is simply running out of time. This was Belt’s fourth documented concussion in the last eight years and third in the last four seasons, but he is not fearful about his future. It’s the opposite, actually. Belt is adamant that he will return next season at 100 percent. 

“There are always going to be some questions about whether this has some long term effects, and hopefully it doesn’t,” Belt said. “But right now it’s not going to keep me from playing baseball. In the long run, I want to make sure I’m one-hundred-thousand percent ready to go when the season starts next year. That’s the long term outlook, and if I can get back this season it’s a bonus.”

Privately, Giants officials have acknowledged for several days that they do not expect Belt to return this season. Belt has been doing light rehab work, but doctors have not yet cleared him for baseball activities. He has more appointments in the coming days, but if his vision issues do not improve this week, the situation will become official. 

“You’re getting close to a point of no return, I guess,” he said. 

Belt has been through this before, with bad luck costing him chunks of two seasons. He missed 46 games in 2014 after getting hit by a Marco Scutaro throw in batting practice. The next year, Belt hit his head against an infielder’s knee while diving back into second. That September concussion ended his season. 

This latest concussion was another fluke, but in an odd way, that was encouraging. Belt was at first concerned about his future, but doctors assured him that he would recover like he has the previous three times. 

“It’s not like I’m repeatedly banging my head against something,” Belt said. “If that was the case, it might affect me more in the long term. This is more sporadic and the hits aren’t too terrible. Once I get over these concussions, they tell me that I won’t have to worry about them anymore.”

Belt did not have any setbacks after recovering from his previous concussions. He said the first couple of weeks this time were pretty rough, but all of the symptoms have dissipated except the vision issues. Joe Panik dealt with those last season and fully recovered. With the last two concussions, it took Belt eight weeks to get fully healthy.

“It’s not that I feel terrible, but it just takes a while to get this stuff to go away,” Belt said. “I wish it didn’t take me as long, but it does. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but it’s one of those things you can’t rush. This is not something that you can be just 95 percent on.”

As he waits to get back to 100 percent, Belt has tried to find ways to add to a schedule that’s usually filled with long plate appearances and scoops at first base. He was a vocal supporter of his hometown Lufkin Little League during their run through the Little League World Series. He has joined with fellow Texas residents Hunter Pence and Mark Melancon to offer support after Hurricane Harvey. Most of Belt’s hours are spent playing with his young son, Greyson, and watching the team he still leads in homers.  

"I'm really invested in these games," Belt said. "I watched Joe this past week and what he did was super impressive. Being at home is different, but watching them passes three hours every day."

Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park


Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have made a habit in recent winters of “kicking the tires,” so to speak, on as many free agents as possible. General manager Bobby Evans is committed to being thorough, but at times there is probably no need. 

Hitters have made no secret of the fact that they prefer friendlier confines, and if you’re a power hitter, you’re going to ask Evans for a significantly larger check to play 81 of your games at the harshest power park in the majors. That’s what makes Giancarlo Stanton, readily available via trade, so intriguing. But would Stanton be fully immune to the realities of AT&T Park?

The numbers, at least in a small sample, suggest he would. Stanton has played 27 games in San Francisco and taken 108 at-bats. He has nine homers, 11 doubles and a triple. His .676 slugging percentage at AT&T Park isn’t far off his mark at Coors Field (.714), and his 1.048 OPS is higher than his OPS during the 2017 season, when he hit 59 homers. 

The damage has been done in limited time, but the Giants clearly believe it’s fully sustainable, and a recent study done by ESPN’s Dan Szymborski backs that up. Szymborski ran his ZiPS projection system to estimate Stanton’s stats over the next 10 years for a variety of suitors. The numbers in orange and black are overwhelming. 

The projections have Stanton at 46.2 WAR over the next 10 seasons, including 7.1 in 2018 and 6.8 in 2019, the two seasons the organization should be focused on given Madison Bumgarner’s contract situation. ZiPS projects Stanton at 46 homers next season if he plays for the Giants, followed by 43, 42, 39, 35 over the following four years. For comparison’s sake, Brandon Belt led the Giants in homers each of the last two seasons and he has 35 total during that span. 

Any sort of projection system needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt, especially with a player who has had injury issues in the past. But ZiPS believes Stanton -- who plays in a huge park already -- is a rarity, the kind of power hitter who can keep crushing well into his 30’s and put up huge numbers even if he is limited by the realities of getting older and getting hurt. Szymborski’s projections have Stanton playing just 102 games in 2025, but he’s still projected to hit 23 homers, 20 doubles and post an OPS+ of 121. Even in the 10th year of the projections, ZiPS has Stanton down for 16 homers. 

There are no sure things in this game, but as Evans continues to chase a blockbuster deal, he can be confident that Stanton is one player who should be able to provide power for years to come, no matter what AT&T Park does to hold hitters down. 

Former A's slugger Gomes offers Ohtani scouting report: 'Big fan of the dude'


Former A's slugger Gomes offers Ohtani scouting report: 'Big fan of the dude'

Former A's left fielder/DH and Bay Area native, Jonny Gomes, last played Major League Baseball in 2015. The next year, Gomes looked to continue his career in Japan with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. 

Gomes struggled in Japan, batting just .169 in 18 games. While in Japan though, Gomes saw firsthand the two-way talent of Shohei Ohtani. 

"The dude throws 100 miles per hour consistently," Gomes said Tuesday to MLB Network Radio. "That plays."

With MLB, the Players Association, and the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization agreeing to a new posting system, Ohtani should soon be available as a free agent to MLB teams. Gomes was adamant that Ohtani will live up to the hype. 

"If you have the arm speed to throw 100 miles per hour, guess what your slider's gonna do -- yikes. And he also has a split, which is yikes with that arm speed. And he also has a changeup, and he also has a curveball. You're talking about five plus, plus, plus pitches.

"If he was in the draft, I think it would be a no-brainer right now that he'd be No. 1 overall," Gomes said. 

Since turning pro as an 18-year-old, Ohtani has been a dominant force on the mound. The 6-foot-3 right-hander owns a 42-15 career record with a 2.52 ERA and 1.076 WHIP. 

What makes Ohtani, 23, so intriguing is that he's not only the best pitcher in Japan, he may be the best hitter too. In 2017, Ohtani hit .332 with eight home runs in 65 games. The left fielder/DH owns a .286/.358/.500 career slash line with 48 home runs. 

"Now hitting wise, is it gonna transfer, is it not? I've seen the dude hit a fly ball that hit the roof of the Tokyo Dome," Gomes remembers. "So, what does that tell you? That bat speed's there, that power's there, that he's generating a lot out front.

"To be able to hit the roof of the Tokyo Dome is way more impressive than hitting any other roof in the states. It would be like hitting the roof in Seattle when it was closed, it's way up there."

Everyone knows about Ohtani off-the-charts talent. The stats are there. What we don't know as much about is his personality. Gomes does and he believes his leadership will make him be a star in the states. 

"I'm a big fan of the dude," Gomes says. "I saw his work ethic, I saw how players treated him, I saw how respectful he was. Over there it's all about seniority. Granted he was the biggest star on the field at any given moment, but still gave the utmost respect to seniority guys on his ball club."