The Giants have placed first baseman Brandon Belt on the 10-day injured list due to discomfort in his bothersome right knee, per a team announcement. Outfielder Bryce Johnson has been recalled from Triple-A Sacramento take his spot on the roster.
Belt, 34, has been battling chronic knee issues for much of the season and acknowledged in a candid interview with the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser yesterday that the injury could well impact his baseball future. “I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about what happens if I’m not able to bounce back,” Belt told Slusser. “But I don’t like thinking about it, because it’s kind of upsetting.”
With two surgeries on that problematic knee already in the rear-view mirror, Belt added to Slusser that he’s “not sure there is anything else that can be done.” Belt has had his knee drained three times already this season, per Slusser.
It’s been a tough season for Belt, who’s hitting .213/.326/.350 on the year with just 18 extra-base hits (eight homers, nine doubles, one triple). From 2020-21, Belt was one of the best hitters in all of baseball, logging a combined .285/.393/.595 batting line with 38 home runs in 560 plate appearances. Among qualified hitters in that time, Belt’s .302/.404/.638 slash and 175 wRC+ against right-handed pitching trailed only Bryce Harper and Juan Soto for tops in Major League Baseball.
This year has been another story entirely, as Belt has been prone to prolonged slumps while navigating the ongoing troubles with his knee. He’s hitting just .150/.269/.200 over his past 25 games and has just two hits and five walks in his past 45 trips to the plate. He’s maintained a keen eye and knowledge of the strike zone, evidenced by this season’s 12.4% walk rate, but Belt has also seen his average exit velocity, hard-hit rate and barrel rate all decline noticeably from that 2020-21 peak. A timetable for Belt’s return hasn’t been provided, but given the recent struggles, there’s a clear need to get him some rest and hope that’ll alleviate some of the discomfort that has contributed heavily this swoon.
Johnson, 26, made his big league debut earlier this season but was held hitless in a tiny sample of four plate appearances spread across four games. He’s hitting .287/.358/.398 in 287 Triple-A plate appearances — a similar but slightly diminished follow-up to last year’s .286/.377/.433 slash in 407 plate appearances at this same level.
A 2017 sixth-rounder, Johnson has never ranked among the system’s very best prospects, but he’s provided average or better offense at just about every minor league spot while serving as a prolific base thief. The speed that makes him a threat on the bases also led to plus scouting grades on his glove in center dating back to his college days. He’ll give the Giants a switch-hitting option who can plug in at any of the three outfield spots for the time being.