With the recent news that Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Corey Hart is in need of knee surgery and will be sidelined for 3-4 months, Mat Gamel will once again be thrust into the lineup. Are you as worried as I am?
Gamel, who was once considered a top prospect in the Brewers organization, has failed to show off his talent in the big leagues. Last season, he was all set to replace the departed Prince Fielder and become the everyday first baseman. He arrived at Spring Training stronger than ever and brought along an improved work ethic. Expectations were soaring and he seemed finally ready to meet them. However, his campaign was brief and disappointing as he only managed a .246 average before a torn ACL ended his season.
With the emergence of Hart at first base, I have been clamoring for the Brewers to trade always-has-tobacco-in-his-mouth Gamel. I believe the Brewers could receive a seasoned reliever in exchange for him. Gamel still has major upside and I bet there are a lot of teams willing to take the risk. Now, it looks like the Brewers did the right thing by hanging on to him.
But this should be Gamel’s LAST chance to prove himself. No more waiting around and hoping he finds his polarizing swing. I don’t care what his Triple-A statistics were. I don’t care that he hit 28 home runs in 2011. If his stats don’t transfer to the majors, they are meaningless. Take Brooks Conrad for example. He absolutely dominated in Triple-A last year but couldn’t buy a hit when he was called up. If Gamel doesn’t produce while Hart is rehabbing his knee, I don’t see a scenario where the Brewers keep him on the team…especially when they have Hunter Morris waiting in the wings.
However, if Gamel shows his full potential, the Brewers will have a tough decision to make. Should they hang on to him or trade him?
If they decide to keep him, moving him to the outfield or back to third base may be the best option. There will be no place for him at first base with either Hart or Morris holding it down. By trading him, they might just get back a solid veteran starter who they failed to sign in the offseason. If I were calling the shots, I would go with the latter.
The one thing Gamel has going for him is that he is a left-handed power hitter. Granted, his power has been nowhere to be found, but nonetheless, it’s there…somewhere. But the key is that he’s a lefty. The Brewers have been without a boisterous and dynamic left-handed bat since Fielder left. At the very least, Gamel will provide some consistency. He will join Norichika Aoki as Milwaukee’s only left-handed hitters in the starting lineup.
The Brewers were already going to be in an uphill climb to win the N.L. Central and with Gamel manning first, that hill just became steeper. Hart has a signifcantly better bat and impressed everyone with his finesse fielding skills last year. Gamel is clearly on a lower level, but his potential alone makes him someone to watch closely.
I’ll be full-heartedly but carefully rooting for Gamel. No one would be happier to see him succeed than me. Here’s to hoping Gamel takes full advantage of yet another opportunity.