Will Ben Gamel make the Brewers Opening Day roster?
By Tyler Koerth
The Brewers bolstered their outfield depth this off-season with the acquisition of Avisail Garcia. They also shipped out Trent Grisham who had been good for the Brewers late in the 2019 season. Where does that leave Ben Gamel? In a star-studded outfield consisting of Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, and Avisail Garcia, is there room for Gamel on the Opening Day roster?
The Milwaukee Brewers have not carried five outfielders on an opening day roster since 2016. The outfielders at that time were: Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana, Ramon Flores, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Keon Broxton. Since 2016, every opening day roster has only had 4 outfielders.
How did Gamel perform in 2019?
In his first season in Milwaukee, Ben Gamel accumulated 356 at-bats and slashed .248/.337/.373. His 40 walks were a single season career high in 2019. He also proved he can hit very well against left handed pitchers as well as deliver clutch hits. Defensively Gamel was able to shift all round the outfield and displayed good range. His arm strength remains his biggest defensive weakness.
Does Braun playing first base impact Gamel?
Typically teams will want to carry two first basemen on their active roster. Since Braun could see a lot of time at first base, he will likely make up one of the two first basemen. This theoretically gives the Brewers three and a half outfielders since Braun is likely to draw a good amount of starts at first base.
Is Gamel the best option to play center field when Cain needs rest?
I think so.
Gamel recorded 137 innings in center field last season without an error. Avisail Garcia would the second option. Garcia did play 94 innings in center field in 2019, but doesn’t have the release or first step instincts that Gamel possesses. According to FanGraphs, Gamel’s instincts have a rating of 46 while Garcia’s is only 24.
Where should Gamel be on Opening Day?
It seems likely that Gamel does make the opening day roster, especially with the active roster expanding to 26 players this season. In the early part of the season, teams often elect to go with an extra batter rather than pitcher, which helps Gamel’s case even more.
Gamel’s playing time and at what level during the season will be most interesting to me. For example, if at first base Justin Smoak takes over the every day role and Braun is shifted back primarily to the outfield, will they keep him on the active roster? Gamel does have one minor league option remaining in 2020 and it seems likely that it will be used at some point during the season
What does that mean for Gamel’s future? That is also uncertain, but potentially losing the ability to send him too and from the minor leagues after the 2020 season hurts. Another factor is that this is the last guaranteed year the Brewers have Braun. Braun returns or not may play a role in Gamel’s future.