In their offseason search for bench bats, the Atlanta Braves announced this past Friday that they have come to an agreement on a minor league deal with corner infielder Mat Gamel. After missing the entire 2013 season and most of 2012 with two separate ACL tears, Gamel will be given a shot to make the 25-man roster out of spring training and supply the team with low-cost power potential for their bench.
This move is intriguing given the fact that Gamel was once a prized possession of the Milwaukee Brewers before injuries derailed the trajectory of his career. After being drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, the talented left-handed hitter tore through the Brewers’ farm system, batting .306 while averaging 13 home runs and 29 doubles over the next four summers.
As a result of his success, Gamel was slotted No. 34 in Baseball America’s prospect rankings heading into the 2009 season.
The Brewers gave Gamel his first real run at the highest level during that ‘09 season. In 148 big league plate appearances that year, he enjoyed a relatively decent start to his MLB career by putting up a .242/.338/.422 slash line with 12 extra-base hits and 20 RBIs. However, following that initial campaign, Gamel would go on to play in a mere 43 games for the Brew Crew from 2010-2013.
The Braves’ front office seems to be under the impression that a now-healthy Gamel can revive his career and become a factor in the team’s aspirations of a second consecutive NL East Title. The franchise’s faith in that possible development becoming a reality is well placed.
Taking a look back at Gamel’s outstanding 2011 season for Triple-A Nashville provides more than enough evidence to back up the Braves’ sentiments. That year, he dominated Pacific Coast League competition to the tune of a .912 OPS and 28 homers through 128 games.
If the approach that led to production of that caliber can be rediscovered, GM Frank Wren will have struck gold, as this is the type of depth acquisition that can often prove to be vital to a contending club’s pursuit of a championship.