Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

One Fateful Night in San Diego

Although Mat Gamel may not officially be done playing Major League Baseball, the corner infielder has sustained three major knee injuries in the past three years, including one recently. It is a disappointing end to what was at one point a very promising career. As a tribute to our once beloved prospect, the following is an obituary for the career of one Mat Gamel.

Rise to Fame:

Mat Gamel was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the fourth round of the 2005 draft out of Chipola College. Gamel’s first three years in pro ball were big successes. The then third basemen never posted an average below .288, an OBP below .359, or a SLG under .469. In 2008, his wRC+ at AA Hunstville was 148 in 127 games.

Besides great statistical performance, Gamel was a hit with scouts. He was often cited as being a pure hitter with the ability to drive the ball to all fields. He was said to have plus pop, and had the potential to be a .280-.300 hitter with 25-30 HRs at third base. Although scouts were a bit wary of his ability to play third base, most believed he could handle it enough to be worth it. The upside was a middle of the order bat at the hot corner. Boy, that would’ve been nice.

Riding the Shuttle:

Gamel was a hit with scouts and Brewers fans alike, but 2009 would be the start of an interesting few years for Gamel. With Prince Fielder firmly implanted at first base, Gamel would have to be able to handle the hot corner in order to see consistent plate appearances. While Gamel’s bat had developed in the minors, he really struggled at third base. He was making errors at a pace that makes just about anyone uncomfortable (.885 Fielding percentage in 191 innings). Gamel also struggled with the bat in his stint with the Brewers in 2009, posting a 100 wRC+. Normally that wouldn’t be that bad, but his defense offset his offensive value, and he accumulated 0.3 WAR over 61 games. One concerning part of his game was his strikeout rate, which reached 36.5%.

Gamel would return to the minors in 2010, spending 82 games with Nashville. He was again successful there posting a slash line of .309/.387/.511 to go with a 127 wRC+. Despite another strong season, Gamel was being blocked by Casey McGehee who was having a career year. With both CIF spots blocked, Gamel was unable to rise up as quickly as most had hoped.

2011 was another year of Gamel torching PCL pitching. He posted a 121 wRC+ and appeared to be the heir apparent to Prince Fielder at first base. He struggled mightily in his small cup of coffee (posted a -26 wRC+, yes negative), but the sample size of ten games was too small to worry much.

The Knees:

Coming into 2012, the first base job belonged to Gamel. While most fans did not expect the greatness that was in the forecast in 2009, many thought he could be an average to above average first baseman. The season began and Gamel didn’t get off to a roaring start. Through 21 games he was hitting a measly .246/.293/.348 for a 72 wRC+. This was only 21 games though, and Gamel had cut his strikeout rate to 20%.

Then one fateful night in San Deigo, Mat Gamel’s career would take a dark turn. While chasing a pop up that was headed towards the seats behind first base, Gamel ran full speed into the wall. His knee buckled, and his career would be changed forever. The result was what we had all feared, a torn ACL.

Many players have come back form torn ACLs. This had become standard procedure in sports, and most expected Gamel to return as the 1B in 2013. Except Gamel’s knee would not cooperate. Before he could even make it into spring training, his ACL re-tore, and he had to miss all of 2013.

The Brewers gave up on Gamel as a part of their future. He was put on waivers after the season. He was claimed by the Chicago Cubs, only to be waived a few days later. The Atlanta Braves picked him up, hoping to provide some depth in AAA. Unfortunately, Gamel’s knee would give out in training once more. Gamel will need to have another surgery to repair his knee, and this likely is the end of his career.

How We’ll Remember Him:

Mat Gamel, you will be remembered as a player with a lot of promise, but one we never got witness reach it. A player that was once seen as a middle of the order third baseman, a star, had his career cut short by knee injury after knee injury. I will remember Gamel for his awkward interviews, his love for large quantities of chewing tobacco, and what was one of the smoothest swings Milwaukee has had in some time. Unfortunately, what we will all remember Gamel by are the knee injuries, and one fateful night in San Diego.

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  • Eric Medrano

    If it had to be one of them it would be J.P. Arencibia. As mentioned Travis is yet to play at the major league level and the Mets won’t give up talent for a player who can still be called an unknown. As for J.P. it would pain me to give up Gee, but its a move I can live with. I guess it would also depend on if Toronto was asking for Gee and another player

    • vilifyingforce

      As a Jays fan I’d deal JPA for Gee. I’m happier with John Buck hitting until TDA is ready.

  • Dennis

    Um as a Jays fan, have you actually seen JPA play? Sub .280 OBP with power can be found easily. John Buck can be had for nothing in a salary dump and he is comparable to JPA… TDA legit All-Star caliber C and he tore up AA and AAA relative to JPA and he did it when he was 2 years younger too.

    • Lunchbox45

      people who don’t understand baseball would mention a catchers OBP.

      JPA is the slowest guy on the team and hits at the bottom of the order. His OBP is a useless stat because its going to take atleast 2 more hits, from your worst hitters, to bring him around.

      He’s young, made really good strides defensively and has power. . Look around the league, guys like Jeff Mathis and Ross are TERRIBLE yet are coveted because the current crop of catchers is terrible.

      half the teams in the league would love a guy like JPA to start 100 games for them

      • Steve R

        Based on this comment, I’m pretty sure it’s not Dennis who doesn’t understand baseball.

        • Lunchbox45

          tu es maricon

      • Dennis

        Yes OBP is not important at all. Sabermetrics is also a phony science made up by nerds with nothing else to do.

        • Lunchbox45

          did i say OBP doesnt matter??

          if thats you’re rebuttal to my post then you are even stupider than I originally thought.

          OBP is an important stat depending on your role within a team, leading off, batting second, OBP is the MOST important stat. If Reyes/Cabrera can get on base, you have Bautista and EE to knock them in

          But batting 8th, and being slow as molasses, OBP isnt important.

          FYI, the average OBP for a starting catcher last year was .301.. but I bet you knew that already right?

          • Dennis

            K you are an idiot and quite annoying. You can’t just disregard OBP because he bats 8th and he is slow… You know why he has a low OBP? Yes he is slow but Miggy had the highest OBP and he is slower than JP and not an “explosive athlete” like the Trouts of the world. JP has a low OBP because of his 28% K rate and 7% walk rate. Both abysmal marks regardless of position.

            JPA has a career .222 BA and .275 OBP. He has regressed from year 1 to year 2 offensively. He is “improving on D” but he is still below average. Yes he has a high SLG% of around .430 but still that puts his OPS at sub .700 which is not good. He is a below average hitter as his wRC+ of 97 is below average. Below average hitter + below average defender = slightly above replacement level. He has been worth 1.3 ffWAR annually over his career. Guess what… John Buck, who had an awful season in 2012, was worth 1.2 ffWAR. But but but JP ARENCIBIA IS THE SECOND COMING OF MIKE PIAZZA RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT?

          • Josh Winninger

            Where did Lunchbox say JP=MIke Piazza? you had me until you had invent shit to make your point sound better. You realize that below average hitter, and below average hitters who play catcher are different things right? I believe the average wrc for catchers last year was around a 93 wrc,which means JP is certainly an above average bat at the catchers position. Lunchbox is definitely painting JP asa bit mroethan he is, but to call JP replacement level and below average both defensiely and offensively as a catcher isjust plain wrong. Below aerage defensively, maybe yes, scouting reports, UZR and DRS differ on his defense quite a bit so I won’targue that point. But to say JPis below average offensively shows your lazy dim-witted analysis.

          • Dennis

            The Mike Piazza reference was simply a joke. If you get what the point I’m trying to get across, don’t be an ignorant asshole.

            Where did I say he is a below average hitting catcher? He is known as an offensively oriented catcher so if he was a below average at hitting for a catcher too he wouldn’t be starting let alone in the majors. Please learn to read. I said he is a below average hitter which means his bat won’t play anywhere except catcher (look at his wRC+ relative to starting 1B and DH) and he is not a good defensive catcher. Statistically, he is a slightly above replacement level player…why are you PMSing over that label? (he’s been worth approximately 1-1.5 WAR annually, 0 WAR is replacement level so I coined him “slightly above replacement level” which is completely fair). I referenced his value according to WAR over his career was the same as John Buck’s abysmal 2012 season. That tells you 2 things: JPA is severely overrated and John Buck if his BABIP stabilizes would be an upgrade over JPA.

            As a Jays fan, by all means trade us Wheeler or Harvey for JPA. Why would I undercut a player on my favourite team unless I’m calling it as it is?

          • vilifyingforce

            Of catchers with 300PA+ in 2012. JPA ranked 26th in OBP, 15th in SLG and 27th in WAR. And he’s below average behind the plate. He’s not even average all around, but, you knew that already didn’t you?

            And there was 19 guys who had over a 300OBP (300+PA) last season.

      • Kris

        You are just an idiot…please just stop talking….OBP has nothing to do with the position you play. But nice try.> Bless Your Heart… GO put your special helmet back on

      • vilifyingforce

        The same David Ross who has a higher career OPS then JPA in either of his seasons? Mathis is at least good behind the plate and Ross has shown he can hit in limited viewings. JPA is a young John Buck.

  • Jason Potter

    The Jays already have a Dillon Gee, his name is Brett Cecil and he throws out of the pen now. come to think about it, we have a whole staff in Buffalo just like Gee. How would that trade make sense for anyone who isn’t a Mets fan?

    You don’t know AA and you don’t know the Jays if you honestly think trading essentially a ‘depth’ pitcher would result in landing JPA. This guy is the core of the pitching staff. He is a solid clubhouse leader. Do you really think that AA would go out and spend more than 26 other teams in the MLB only to trade away one of their biggest strengths? Not to mention d’Arnaud is still rehabbing the PCL and would have to spend the first 1/3 of the season in Buffalo.

    John Buck is available though. But I wouldn’t even trade him for Dillon Gee. JPA isn’t being moved until d’Arnaud is healthy and can prove his worth to the big league club.

    • Dennis

      Brett Cecil is clear bullpen arm… lit up at the major league level in 2011 and 2012. Jon Niese is superior considerably; a legitimate 3/4 SP. Given the dearth of SP available via trade, Niese will fetch MUCH MORE than Buck. In fact, an offer of Buck for Niese might be more ludicrous than a Mets’ offer of a bag of tennis balls for JPA.

  • Marc Seligman

    As Mets fan, I take either catcher although it bothers me to add a guy who can’t hit .250 to an MLB roster (J.P. Arencibia) but we do see it more and more. Not giving Niese for him as we need that lefty arm but, Gee you can have,

  • mozelpuffski

    lol Gee for JPA – that is kind of funny. Jays have a 5h starter named Happ. there is no way anyone can believe Gee is an upgrade over Happ. However Rasmus for Dickey now were talking.