New Life for Mat Gamel by Howard Bender December 15, 2011 When Mat Gamel started making his way through the Milwaukee Brewers system beginning in 2006, the team envisioned him as their third baseman of the future. While he continued to work on some defensive shortcomings, he was exhibiting exceptional power, good plate discipline and a knack for getting on base at a rate well above average. When he finally got the call in May of 2009, he struggled at the plate. Flashes of power, yes. Solid walk rate, yes. But far too many strikeouts. He landed back in Triple-A and it all started to go downhill from there as injuries began to derail his career and the door opened up for other players like Casey McGehee to step in. Even this offseason, with the recent signing of Aramis Ramirez, it appeared that Gamel was becoming yet another lost prospect. However, with the impending departure of Prince Fielder, the Brewers seem to be inclined to give Gamel another shot, this time across the diamond at first base. Now the only question is, can he take the next step or will this be the last time we keep him on our fantasy radar? If Gamel’s season in Triple-A last year was a true representation of growth in his career and a sign that things have finally begun to click for the now 26-year old, then we could have a legitimate contender for late round fantasy sleeper on our hands. He posted a triple slash line of .310/.372/.540 with a solid 8.4% walk rate and a much-improved (and much more respectable) 15.4% K-rate, all while mashing 28 home runs and 29 doubles. Who doesn’t love a .229 ISO? He finished the season with a .391 wOBA and he did it all with a very reasonable .329 BABIP, so it was more than just a lucky year for him. But will it translate in the majors, finally? It seems, with their resignation to life without Fielder, that the Brewers are willing to give it a try. Since Gamel was never very slick with the glove at the hot corner, the position switch to first is no big deal. We’ve seen it done a million times. They did it with Ryan Braun and they were going to do it with McGehee this year until he jumped ship to Pittsburgh. His career, basically, now hinges on how he produces offensively this season. For fantasy owners, it’s always depended on offensive production. But with Gamel now, how worthy of drafting he becomes also hangs on how your league sets his position eligibility. For his minor league career, he’s always been a third baseman, however, when he got his quickie, mid-season call up in 2011, he only played three games at third, while he split his time at first (2 games), the outfield (2 games) , and at designated hitter (2 games). Both ESPN and CBS seem to have him listed at third, but Yahoo doesn’t appear to be set just yet. If the hitting trend continues and he remains listed as a third baseman, he’s much more valuable than if he’s listed at first. The position is obviously thinner and provides you with much fewer power options. Not to mention, the eventual dual position eligibility which is always a huge bonus, especially in daily leagues. He’ll still be a late round pick, but, depending on how he starts off this spring, may go a round or two before you’d like. Continue to monitor him as he is moving into his peak years and could just be a late-bloomer on the verge of a breakout season.