Giants Likely Will Not Have HR Leader For Playoffs

MLB Rumors: Giants Likely Will Not Have HR Leader For Playoffs

The San Francisco Giants have clinched a playoff spot as they will either finish with the best record in the majors, as NL West champions and have home-field advantage throughout the postseason or they will host the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL wild-card game early next week. San Francisco is +575 on the MLB odds to win the World Series.

San Francisco not going to have Brandon Belt for playoffs MLB 2021

Unfortunately for the Giants’ World Series chances, however, they are not going to have first baseman and leading home-run hitter Brandon Belt for a while if not the rest of the season including playoffs due to a fractured left thumb. Belt leads the Giants with a career-high 29 home runs this year, but he was struck when he squared up to bunt against lefty reliever Lucas Gilbreath in the seventh inning of Sunday’s 6-2 win. Belt also fractured his left thumb on a hit-by-pitch in 2014 and ended up missing close to eight weeks.

“Not at all,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler told reporters when asked whether he had a problem with Belt trying to bunt. “He knows when the best way for him to get on base is to put a bunt down. … Not surprised. I thought it was a smart play against a tough lefty late in the game.”

Not only has Belt been the team’s best hitter since the start of last season, but he’s also been one of the best in all of baseball over that span.  Power has been so hard to come by in recent years for the Giants that Belt’s 29 homers are the most in a season for the team since Barry Bonds hit 45 in 2004.

Belt is the first Giants first baseman to hit at least 29 since Will Clark did so in 1991. Clark was the last Giants first baseman to hit at least 30 homers (35 in 1987). Since returning from a knee injury August 5th, Belt’s slash line is.297/.394/.690, hitting 18 home runs in that stretch. That production is 83% better than league average, according to wRC+.

Belt has always been good at keeping the ball off the ground, and this year is no different, as he has a 50% fly-ball rate, the highest of his career, paired with the lowest ground-ball rate in the majors. It’s unfortunate timing for Belt, career-wise, as he’s heading into free agency.

Who will play first in Belt’s stead? Darin Ruf has been sidelined with a right oblique strain, leaving a likely platoon of LaMonte Wade Jr. and Wilmer Flores to man first in Belt’s absence. This season, Wade, a left-handed hitter, has slashed .259/.334/.498 with 18 home runs and Flores, a right-handed batter, has slashed .259/.331/.449 with 18 home runs. Ruf could be back later this week, though.

Will Martinez Return To Boston?

If the Boston Red Sox don’t earn one of the AL’s wild-card spots this week, it could be the last few games in a Red Sox uniform for DH JD Martinez. He can exercise an opt-out clause in his contract. Martinez, 34, has hit .285/.349/.516 (126 OPS+) with 27 home runs in his first 142 games this season. His contract contained an opt-out clause last offseason as well, but he stayed put after hitting .213/.291/.389 (79 OPS+) with just seven home runs in 54 games during the shortened 2020 campaign.

“I’m right in the middle,” Martinez said of his potential decision. “It’s a balancing line, and I’m right in the middle. I haven’t made a decision. I don’t worry about that stuff, but right now I’m right in the middle.” The Sox are 21-3 this season when Martinez hits at least 1 HR. He could become only the 11th player to record as many as 3 seasons of 25 HR and 100 RBI for the Red Sox.

Will the National League accept the DH starting next season? If that happens, Martinez’s market potential expands. At 34-years-old the veteran slugger could be looking at his final contract. If Martinez doesn’t opt-out, he could be a trade candidate for a Boston team that might be more inclined to bring back Kyle Schwarber for a DH/outfield role.

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