There's no way the Giants would do it. They stashed Tim Lincecum in AAA his rookie year when he was ready. They treated Buster Posey the same way. Neither of them required much roster juggling to call up early, and yet the Giants blocked them from the Opening Day roster.
So when another stud prospect came banging on the door this March, most (myself included) assumed Brandon Belt would remain in the minors in April. After all, erstwhile Aubrey Huff re-upped with a two-year deal just this past offseason. But Brian Sabean bucked the trend, officially announcing that Brandon Belt would be the Giants' Opening Day starter at first base. The move necessitating putting Travis Ishikawa on waivers, a first baseman who was to be entering his fifth MLB season with the Giants, tenth with the organization.
What to expect from Belt? His rise to prominence has been swift to be sure. At this point last year, he had played all of zero minor league games. After one year in the minors, the fifth-rounder is an Opening Day starter. Amazing. As much as that somewhat small sample size may be a red flag, the scouting folks express no reservations in the kid's ability.
He will likely struggle more than Buster Posey or Jason Heyward did last season. He was just 11-for-61 in AAA last year, and Posey/Heyward were even more high profile when entering the league than Belt is. There will be growing pains, but the ceiling he is capable of should frighten fans of NL West opponents. The Giants' probability of repeating as division champs just got a little bit better.
In past years, I have posted the NL West reports on Monday mornings, running through the games and news from the previous Monday-Sunday week. Due to Opening Day starting for the league on the weekend, and the fact that I'd like my weekends a little more free (who wouldn't?), I have switched it to Friday. Therefore, this space will cover news/games from Friday through Thursday of the previous week. A little unconventional, but you will catch on.
NL West Report
Arizona (2010: 65-97, 5th, L2, 27 GB)
You Should Know: Arizona plays 15 games in April against the NL Central, a division they went just 16-27 against in 2010.
Opening Day Roster: RHP Kam Mickolio has made the bullpen, while Ryan Roberts earned a bench spot. The rotation sets up as Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders, Barry Enright and Armando Gallaraga. Juan Miranda is still the starting first baseman, but Russell Branyan also has made the team at the expense of Brandon Allen.
Transactions: Optioned LF/1B Brandon Allen, optioned LHP Jordan Norberto, optioned RHP Esmerling Vasquez, released RHP Carlos Rosa, outrighted 2B Tony Abreu.
Injuries: Placed IF Geoff Blum and LHP Zach Duke on the 15-day DL retroactive to March 22.
Los Angeles (2010: 80-82, 4th, W2, 12.0 GB)
This Week: 4-game home series vs Giants (Thu-Sun). 2-game road series @ Rockies (Tue/Wed)
You Should Know: The Dodgers have eliminated the fifth starter role while Jon Garland is out. He figures to be back in April....Garland is one of FIVE players on the projected Opening Day roster that will start the year on the DL. Of those five, only Dioner Navarro is younger than 31.
25-Man Roster: Lance Cormier got a surprise slot in the bullpen at the expense of Ramon Troncoso. With Casey Blake on the disabled list, Ivan DeJesus slid into a bench infield spot. Jay Gibbons' eye issues remain, and his spot on the disabled list allowed Xavier Paul (who is out of options) to make the club. With Jon Garland on the DL, the Dodgers have elected to go with a 4-man rotation, 11-man staff, and 6-man bench. That's good news for the out-of-options Hector Gimenez, who won a utility role. Dioner Navarro is also on the disabled list, so AJ Ellis will be one of the two back-ups at catcher, along with Gimenez. All other roster spots were as projected.
Transactions: Called up IF Aaron Miles, RHP Mike MacDougal, and RHP Lance Cormier. Optioned RHP John Ely, RHP Travis Schlichting, LHP Scott Elbert and RHP Ramon Troncoso to AAA Albuquerque. Released LHP Ron Mahay. Designated RHP Jon Link for assignment.
Injuries: Placed RHP Jon Garland, OF Jay Gibbons, C Dioner Navarro and 3B Casey Blake on the disabled list.
San Diego (2010: 87-68, 2nd, L1, 0.5 GB Div, Lead WC)
This Week: 3 game road series @ Cardinals (Thu/Sat/Sun), 2 game home series vs. Giants (Tue/Wed).
You Should Know: Mat Latos again misses out on being the Opening Day starter due to being on the disabled list. Last season, the ball was given to Jon Garland. This year, the honor goes to Tim Stauffer, who failed to make the rotation out of Spring Training a year ago.....The rotation after the first three games hasn't been officially announced after the first three games, but LHP Cory Luebke and/or RHP Dustin Moseley could fill in until Mat Latos returns.
25 Man Roster: With Mat Latos on the disabled list, lefty Cory Luebke got called up. Pat Neshek and former Rockie Samuel Deduno join the bullpen, with LHP Wade LeBlanc getting pushed out and LHP Joe Thatcher placed on the DL. Acquired Monday from Washington, IF Alberto Gonzalez (A-Gone...teehee) pushes SS Everth Cabrera back to AAA Tucson. Aaron Cunningham also missed the club and was replaced by Cedric Hunter. The rest shook out as expected.
San Francisco (2010: 92-70, 1st, W1)
This Week: 3 game road series @ Dodgers (Thu/Sat/Sun), 2-game home series vs. Padres (Tue/Wed).
25-Man Roster: LHP Dan Runzler with closer Brian Wilson on the disabled list. Brandon Belt got the call to join the team, pushing Travis Ishikawa to the waiver wire. The other 23 spots went as expected.
Transactions: Called up 1B Brandon Belt. DFAd 1B Travis Ishikawa. Optioned OF Darren Ford, UT Emmanuel Burriss, and IF Ryan Rohlinger to AAA Fresno. Released RHP Jeff Suppan.
Injuries: Placed closer Brian Wilson on the 15-day disabled list. He is eligible to return as early as April 6 and might just do so. Placed Cody Ross on the 15-day DL. He is eligible to return April 8, but they will likely wait a bit longer.