In a moderately shocking move, the San Francisco Giants rewarded prospect Brandon Belt for his great 2010 minor league season and strong spring by naming him their new starting first baseman.

This is a surprising move for a whole host of reasons. Not only do teams often chose to hold their prospects in the minor leagues to avoid Super 2 status (as we’ve discussed many times on Getting Blanked before), they tend not to sign aging players like Aubry Huff to multi-year contracts only to give their job to a young stud making the minimum.

Which isn’t to suggest bringing Belt north with the big club was part of the plan all along. An injury to starting outfielder Cody Ross helps create space for the young slugger as it forces the aforementioned Huff into outfield duty.

Belt posted gaudy numbers in his lone minor league season (at three levels!) and continued to rake during spring training, hitting three home runs while drawing six walks in more than 75 plate appearances. I covered Belt’s credentials early this spring, the only difference being the injury to Ross.

The bigger issue is what this means for the Giants – namely a total shift in ideology. I know I’ve been critical of Sabean many times in the past but if he thinks a) Belt can cut it and b) Super 2′s are headed the way of Hotmail than I encourage him to go nuts.

From what I’ve read around baseball this pre-season, most people do not expect the Giants to defend their World Series title. This Giants team could win 90 games and I would not bat an eyelash. Consider the Opening Day lineup a year ago:

2010 2011
Aaron Rowand – CF Andres Torres – CF
Edgar Renteria – SS Freddy Sanchez – 2B
Pablo Sandoval – 3B Aubrey Huff – LF
Aubrey Huff – 1B Buster Posey – C
Mark DeRosa – LF Miguel Tejada – SS
Bengie Molina – C Brandon Belt – 1B
John Bowker – RF Pablo Sandoval – 3B
Juan Uribe – 2B Cody Ross – RF
Timmy! Timmy (again)!

The World Series championship team which hit its stride mid-summer looks an awful lot like the one ready to take the field on Opening Day – with the addition of a healthy Mark DeRosa. There are no Rowands or Molinas in sight. There are question marks and regression candidates like any team – just don’t let the low win total in 2010 throw you: this is one of baseball’s best teams.