If you ask Mat Gamel about his 2009 season, I would venture to say he was all that happy with it. After a mid-season callup, Gamel batted just .246 in 130 big league at bats. However, he was able to walk a bit and show some power in that same time, with a .340 OBP and .431 slugging percentage. Not bad numbers, but numbers Gamel would like to improve on.
He has responded in 2010. Gamel has been a very good hitter at AAA Nashville. In the Sounds 7-6 win Monday, Gamel went 3-4 with a double, walk and grand slam. After yesterday's performance, Gamel has now posted a .322/.397/.513/.911 line in 267 at bats in AAA. He has also accumulated 10 homers and 58 RBI in that same span.
So who is the real Mat Gamel and what can he bring to this franchise?
Throughout his minor league career, Gamel has shown just exactly what kind of baseball player he is. He struggles defensively. He strikes out and walks a lot. He shows decent, but not overwhelming power with his above average bat. To me, that sounds like a player with some pretty decent value.
Gamel's 2010 has much more reminiscent of his career line of .304/.377/.489/.866. He has been very consistent at every level with those numbers and should have little trouble producing good numbers at the big league level. Where he would play is another huge question.
With Prince Fielder all but gone in the future, first base does have an opening. Gamel's 6' frame isn't all that conducive to the position, but then again, neither did Fielder, who was two inches shorter. Playing Gamel at first base does make sense, as the Brewers could hide Gamel's biggest problem: his glove.
Coming up through the minors, Gamel has always played third base. It seemed to work perfectly coming into last season, as the Brewers had a glaring need there. However, Casey McGehee has shown he can play third and likely would get the nod over Gamel. This season, McGehee has a 2.4 WAR, despite costing the Brewers nearly six runs with his glove. I firmly believe Gamel can outproduce McGehee with the bat, but his glove makes McGehee look like the second coming of Mike Schmidt. I just don't see the Brewers playing Gamel long term at third base.
The other option I have heard is in right field. This really depends on what the Brewers are going to do with Corey Hart. Hart's UZR this season in right has been a very bad -11.5. I have heard some rumblings of Corey moving to first base and placing Gamel in right. This would make some sense considering Corey's large 6'6" frame. However, doing this would introduce two players to positions they have never played. I doubt Gamel could do much worse than Hart in right, so I am hoping this is the route the Brewers explore.
In the meantime, the Brewers hands are really tied. I expect them to trade Prince Fielder in the offseason, but until that happens, there is no place to play Gamel in Milwaukee. Thus, there is no sense in calling him up just to ride the bench (i.e. 2009). The best way to handle things for now is to get him some starts at either first base or right field. Something tells me Adam Stern and Joe Koshansky don't really have a chance to make a big impact in the future. Getting Gamel acquainted to those position should be priority one for this club.