By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Mat Gamel, First Baseman, Milwaukee Brewers
2011 season: 10 G, 26 AB, .115 AVG, 0 HR, 2 RBIs
For the last seven years, Prince Fielder put up MVP-type numbers as the Brewers’ first baseman. Now, the job will be left up to Gamel, a player who was once almost as hyped but has yet to realize his potential.
Though Gamel came up as one of Milwaukee’s top prospects a few years ago, he struggled with during his first crack at the Majors. He hit only .242 with five home runs in 148 plate appearances, then wasn’t given much more of a shot over the next few years. He played in only 12 games for the Brewers in 2010, then got into only 10 contests last year. With only 85 big league games under his belt, he is a bit of a wild card heading toward Opening Day.
One good sign is that Gamel has performed very well in the minors over the course of his career, including recently. Over the last two years at Triple-A, he’s put up OPS’s of .898 and .912, respectively. For what it’s worth, he’s also posted strong numbers so far in Spring Training, batting .273 with three homers and a .974 OPS in 13 games. The potential to hit for average and power is definitely there – Gamel just hasn’t had the chance to truly prove himself.
The problem is that Gamel has never had much of a position, which likely cost him a shot at the Majors earlier on. He came up as a third baseman but failed to cut it in the field, leaving him at first base. With no designated hitter in the National League and the Brewers already employing a perennial All-Star, Gamel had nowhere to play.
Finally, though, the 26-year-old has an opportunity. His defense is no longer important – only his bat is. In the best-case scenario, Gamel becomes a strong offensive option that leaves Brewers fans less devastated by the loss of Fielder. More likely, though, he will be a solid hitter who performs adequately for his position. That might not sound too exciting, but the Brewers would probably sign on for that type of production. Among cheap options at first base, they could do worse.
Next up on March 24: Pittsburgh Pirates