Once viewed as the Brewers’ third baseman of the future, Mat Gamel’s injuries and struggles defensively have kept him in the minors far longer than expected when he ranked 34th on Baseball America‘s list of the top prospects in baseball prior to last season.
Gamel got a brief look at third base last season before giving way to Casey McGehee and has spent all of this year in the minors despite continuing to hit well, which is why it’s no surprise that the Brewers announced he’ll start to see playing time as a first baseman and right fielder at Triple-A.
Here’s how assistant general manager Gord Ash explained the decision:
You don’t want to limit your options. I went there three weeks ago or so and we talked about the fact that in order for him to come to the big leagues and get at-bats, he’s going to have a play a few different places. So we’ve gone from the practice to games.
Gamel will still see plenty of time at third base for now, but clearly the Brewers don’t trust his glove enough to view him as a long-term option there and so instead the idea was to prepare him to potentially replace either Prince Fielder and Corey Hart. Now that Hart has signed a three-year extension, Gamel is insurance for Fielder either leaving as a free agent after next season or being traded before then.
Of course, now Gamel’s bat is also somewhat in question since he’s hit a good but not great .283/.367/.467 with 20 homers, 30 doubles, and a 145/65 K/BB ratio in 135 total games at Triple-A. He no longer looks like an elite bat, which is even more of an issue at an offense-driven position like first base or right field.