Where Does Mat Gamel Fit In With The Brewers?
News out of spring training yesterday had new Brewers manager Ron Roenicke saying Mat Gamel is going to bounce around several positions if he’s going to play in the major leagues this year.
Quoted by the Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Roenicke said:
“The guy can hit so if he can make us believe he can play a lot of positions, it helps him in making the team. If you were looking at it and in his shoes, you would think you’d be open to anything.”
Of course, that assumes Gamel is better off playing in the majors this season. He certainly could provide some value as a pinch hitter and can add depth as a utility player, but would be be better served being an everyday player in the minors?
That notion is not lost on the Brewers skipper:
Roenicke conceded that another factor is if it’s better for Gamel to play every day at Class AAA Nashville rather than see sporadic action off the Brewers’ bench. That call will come at the end of camp.
Roenicke said Gamel would see time at third base, first base and at the corner outfield spots this spring.
Assuming everyone stays healthy, the Brewers could conceivably afford to send Gamel back to the minors to get regular playing time.
They have Chris Dickerson, Mark Kotsay and Brandon Boggs as reserve outfielders. Plus they have Craig Counsell and Luis Cruz backing up the infield positions.
Gamel is like a lot of his teammates: above-average offensively, below-average defensively. But his bat appears to be major-league ready as long as he can get regular playing time to stay sharp and keep his timing down.
He has a career batting average over .300 in more than 600 games in the minors that suggests he can replicate that success at the major league level. But where will he play?
He’s blocked at third base – the position he plays most frequently – by Casey McGehee. He’s blocked by Prince Fielder at first base. And he’s blocked by Ryan Braun and Corey Hart in left and right field, respectively.
But what about his long-term prospects?
Let’s assume for a second that Prince Fielder leaves via free agency next season.
Because Gamel, McGehee and Hart are all below-average defenders, it’s been thought at one time or another, they all might make the move to first base at some future point in time.
It’s certainly a possibility that some combination of Gamel, McGehee and Hart will play third, first and right field in 2012, although that doesn’t exactly improve the Brewers defensively.
With Fielder’s salary coming off the books, it’s possible the Brewers pursue a position player in free agency next season. However unlikely, there’s a chance the Brewers could get in the bidding to re-sign Fielder too.
And it’s not out of the question a player like Gamel eventually gets traded away. Plus, there’s always the unknown injury factor that could impact the future of any one of those players.
There’s just too much uncertainty to predict the future path of Gamel’s career. The feeling here is that the prospect is best off starting the season in Nashville getting playing time at the position he’d most likely play in Milwaukee in 2012.
Beyond that, the Brewers just have to let the season play out and let the chips fall where they may.