Gamel, Brewers Missing Opportunity

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by Andrew Coughlin

It's unfortunate, really.  This was supposed to be Mat Gamel's coming out party.  The 2012 MLB season was a tremendous opportunity for the young slugger.  The expectations were timid, dispite the big shoes he was filling with the departure of all world power hitter Prince Fielder.  Certainly, no one was expecting Gamel to make up for Fielder's lost production, not by himself at least.  How was Gamel going to fill the void left at first base?

By staying healthy.

He lost that battle on Tuesday, in San Diego against an inferior team, on a meaningless, out-of-play pop-up.

Can anyone blame him for going hard for a foulball? No, but it is a shame to lose an up-and-coming slugger that blasted minor league pitchers for the past few years.  His chance finally came when Fielder left for the big bucks in Detroit and GM Doug Melvin knew this, before we all did, that Prince was as good as gone.  He knew it so we as to pre-emptively switch Gamel to first base in the minors last year.  He got experience there on defense.  He recieved a good amount of at-bats.  The quantity of at-bats he would not have seen had he been on the Brewers' roster last year.  The preping on the part of Melvin was extensive and carefully thought out.

Now, that preperation has been lost and Melvin will be forced to plug the holes left by this unfortunate injury.  Step up and be seen, Travis Ishikawa and Brooks Conrad!  I'll be surprised if the pair will be able to produce the power numbers that the Brewers will need in a very tough NL Central.  

In a very young season, Gamel was a pleasant surprise.  He looked like he was settling into a comfort zone at first, minus a few defensive mistakes; nothing major and nothing to alarm anyone.  He also looked like he was coming into his own at the plate as well.  His numbers to this point were not amazing by any means.  However, his confidence against big league pitchers started to come to the surface, exemplified by some clutch hitting in key moments in a handful of games this year.  It was also said that his immature approach to the game was a thing of the past.

2012 Season  G AB H R HR RBI AVG OPS
Mat Gamel  21 69 17 10 1 6 .246  .641

 The opportunity was there for both Gamel and the organization, to fill a void with a promising future.  I am not saying this is catostrophic for his career, but this is definitely a huge setback for both parties.

What do the Brewers do now?

Is it automatic that Ishikawa and Conrad fill the spot?  Not necessarily.  Manager Ron Roenicke will have that platoon option if he wants it.  Another option worth considering is moving RF Corey Hart to firstbase and having a three man platoon in RF and CF.  Hart is swinging the bat very well at the moment and would be the optimal solution for firstbase production.

Don't be surprised to see a complete shakeup to Roenicke's lineup card as well.  Weeks out of the leadoff spot, Aoki an everyday player, the Gomez/Morgan platoon batting 8th; this lineup is not hitting at the moment and although Roenicke doesn't need to panic now, there may be an urgent desire to do something crazy.  Especially if the Brewers lose Ryan Braun for a lengthy amount of time, which they can ill afford.  Now that they have lost Gamel for the year.

Here's a lineup you may see in the near future.

1. Aoki RF

2. Weeks/Hart 2B/1B

3. Braun LF

4. Ramirez 3B

5. Hart/Weeks 1B/2B

6. Gonzalez SS

7. Lucroy C

8. Gomez/Morgan CF

9. SP

Send emails to acoughlin@cbs58.com

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