Vince Belnome hit .321/.444/.519 across two levels last year.
He’s a left-handed hitting second baseman who was only a smidge old for his level.
Top prospect, right?
Belnome was drafted in the 28th round last season out of West Virginia, hit .297/.431/.500 at short-season Eugene, and then hit .500/.556/.656 in 10 games at Low-A Fort Wayne.
You can only go from 28th round pick to top prospect so fast, and half a year of hitting doesn’t do it. MadFriars.com ranked Belnome as the 34th best prospect in the system after 2009, praising his hitting but saying his lateral movement was questionable.
Belnome plays hard at second, but struggles with lateral movement, leading to below-average range and double play turning.
Still, he’s a very hard defensive worker, and scouts said the same things about Dustin Pedroia and David Eckstein, who basically willed themselves into average or better defenders.
That doesn’t mean I’m ignoring the defensive issues. I’m just saying he has a shot to stick at second, and at age 21 (and A-ball), it’s far too early to say he won’t be able to improve.
My last article looked at another sleeper, 1B/C/LF Cody Decker, who was picked six rounds before Belnome last year. Decker is interesting, but the odds are still against him. I don’t think the odds are against Belnome, however (at least not more against him than against most good prospects).
He could start this year at Lake Elsinore at age 22. I’d imagine he’ll hit his way through that level and land in San Antonio less than a year after being drafted.
Belnome is a huge sleeper in the system, and if he improves defensively, he could wind up as San Diego’s second baseman in 2012. Keep an eye on him–he could be a left-handed-hitting Dan Uggla if everything breaks right.