Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mat Gamel: the Future is Now (or Never)

On Friday the Milwaukee Brewers announced that third baseman Bill Hall has a partial tear in his left calf and will be sidelined for four to six weeks.

Four to six weeks would cover the majority of Spring Training, putting Hall behind schedule to start the season with the big club.

Four to six weeks would also be a lot of time for the Brewers’ latest super-prospect, Mat Gamel, to impress the coaching staff and cement his position as the team’s everyday third baseman.

The left-handed hitting Gamel is a tremendous pure hitter who destroyed Double-A pitching last season, hitting .329 with 19 home runs in just over 500 at bats. To really grasp what a great season Gamel had, one needs to look at his full body of work. Gamel led the Southern League in RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits. He finished second in average, fourth in OPS and fifth in slugging.

The biggest detractor to his success will be whether or not he can improve his defense. Gamel has committed 123 errors in 360 minor league games, a number far too high to survive as a third baseman at the major league level.

If Gamel can’t improve his defense, his options become very limited. The Brewers already moved their last error-prone third baseman, Ryan Braun, to left field and have Corey Hart and Mike Cameron entrenched in the other two outfield slots. Prince Fielder, barring a trade, is locked in at first base and Rickie Weeks—if healthy—figures to get most of the starts at second base.

Gamel needs to use this spring as his coming out party to the Brewers brass if he is going to establish himself with the big club. As the Brewers proved last season when they traded Matt LaPorta to Cleveland in the CC Sabathia deal, they are not afraid to move top prospects to improve the club in the here and now.

Get ready Gamel, you’ve got four to six weeks.

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