Should Mat Gamel start for the Brewers?

by JohnBowen

Mat Gamel has been one of the top prospects in the Milwaukee Brewers’ system for what feels like forever. A third baseman for his entire Minor League career, Gamel has shown a lot of promise; in 2008, he led the Southern League in RBI’s, total bases, and extra-base hits while finishing fourth in OPS. Overall, he has hit .302/.376/.489 in about 2700 minor league plate appearances.

This includes exactly 162 games and 702 plate appearances for the AAA Nashville Sounds. His line there? .293/.375/.489 with 25 home runs and 118 RBI’s.

His professional playing career also includes a stint with the 2009 Brewers. Fighting to stay in the playoff hunt, the Brewers called up Gamel, who had been doing well at AAA. They were hoping to get the same kind of magical season that they got from Ryan Braun in 2007; that year, the National League Rookie of the Year set a Major League record for rookie slugging percentage, and he hasn’t looked back.

The magic never came;  Gamel struggled from the start and was relegated to pinch-hitting duties. He hit just .239 in 42 games after being called up; furthermore, he struggled mightily on his return to AAA, possibly setting his progress back a year.

After 2010, it appears that Gamel is ready for the show – at least offensively.

No one has ever questioned that Gamel has what it takes to perform with the bat. The question has always been the glove. In 558 career games at third base, Mat Gamel has committed 172 errors for an .887 fielding percentage.

Fielding percentage is a terrible way to judge a player’s defensive abilities – especially at the Minor League level. But that’s really bad. From 2009-2010, he committed 35 errors in 157 minor league games.

At any rate, Gamel’s future isn’t at third base, not with Casey McGehee under team control through 2014 (sidenote: I love the sponsor’s statement on his baseballreference.com page).

Logically, his future is at first. Milwaukee’s chances of re-signing Prince Fielder after he becomes a free agent are pretty slim – especially if he has a typical walk-year. Then, Gamel can slide in and produce there.

But after Doug Melvin pillaged the farm system to acquire 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke and former Toronto ace Shaun Marcum, the Brew Crew’s statement is simple: they want to win this year.

2013? To borrow from How I Met Your Mother, 2013 sounds like a great problem for Future Doug (Melvin) and Future Ron (Roenicke).

With that in mind – how should the Brewers work Mat Gamel into their master plan for 2011?

My theory? Milwaukee should relegate Carlos Gomez to fourth outfielder duties, shift speedster Corey Hart over to center field (where he has played 51 career games), and start Mat Gamel in right field.

I’m very confident that this would produce a better offense. After all, Gomez owns just a .293 career on-base percentage and 78 OPS+. His one redeeming offensive quality is his tremendous speed and base running instincts.

On the other hand, this move would substantially weaken The Brew Crew’s outfield defense. Gomez is one of the most sound defensive center fielders in the majors; my idea would mean moving Hart to a less familiar position and asking career (bad) infielder Mat Gamel to patrol a fairly tough Miller Park right field.

So, my question to you, my legions of reader(s?): as Wisconsin’s sports hangover turns from Super Bowl celebrations to a promising new baseball season, what is the Brewers’  best option for using Mat Gamel in 2011?

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7 Responses to “Should Mat Gamel start for the Brewers?”

  1. Chuck Says:

    “what is the Brewers’ best option for using Mat Gamel in 2011?”

    Bait.

    Stick a hook in him, cast him out and see what comes back.

    The Brewers signed Mark Kotsay to be the lefty fourth OF/backup to Fielder, and I think the thought of Hart in center is even more scary than of Gamel in right.

    Some skills that go with being a baseball player can be taught, some cannot. What Gamel is lacking cannot, and he is in the same boat as Jesus Montero is.

    There is no amount of coaching, of time, of patience that will magically make Montero an average catcher, and the same will not make Gamel a good third baseman.

    Gamel’s a career .300 hitter in six minor league seasons, so his bat is legit, but his only hope of regular playing time is in the AL…or back in Nashville.

  2. Jim Says:

    Can’t see how you can move a defensively challenged player to a new position on the opposite side of the field and expect anything but a disaster.

    Since it’s doubtful the Brewers resign Fielder and this kid seems like he’s a ML hitter, just let him continue to develop at AAA. Who knows, an injury might crop up and that will be his chance in the majors.

  3. Cameron Says:

    From what I’ve heard about Jesus Montero, he’s actually turning into a serviceable (read: good enough) catcher for the first few years of his ML career.

  4. Chuck Says:

    “From what I’ve heard about Jesus Montero, he’s actually turning into a serviceable (read: good enough) catcher for the first few years of his ML career.”

    No, he’s not.

    Typical Yankee media bullshit.

  5. JohnBowen Says:

    Chuck,

    What do you think the Brewers could get for Gamel?

    Keep in mind that when Fielder leaves, Gamel is slotted to be the replacement. I’d kinda like to have SOMEONE around when our current slate of studs (minus Braun) leaves us.

  6. Cameron Says:

    Not Yankee media Chuck, I’ve seen a few reports saying that he’ll be good enough for platoon duty this season and could probably stick behind the plate for a few seasons before a spot opens up, probably until Gary Sanchez comes up.

  7. Chuck Says:

    “I’ve seen a few reports”

    Written by whom?

    I agree, John, if Fielder bolts then Gamel is their only in-house option. If they want to keep him around as a lefty off the bench, fine, but I’d send him out and let him play everyday.

    Give him the chance to play RF in the minors..give him some time at first..beats rotting on Milwaukee’s bench.

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