At 5-foot-7, 205-pounds, Caleb Gindl isn’t the ideal size to be a corner outfielder in MLB, but he does carry a decent stick. The Milwaukee Brewers are planning on going with Khris Davis in left field and Ryan Braun in right, so Gindl’s value would come in a limited role off the bench. Both corner outfielders will need some time off during the season; that’s where Gindl can step in and provide value.
In 57 games with the Brewers (37 starts), the 25-year-old outfielder only hit .242, but his OBP was an impressive .340 thanks to 20 walks in 155 plate appearances. He even added seven doubles and five home runs with his highlight of the season being a walk-off, opposite field dinger in the bottom of the 13th to beat the Miami Marlins.
Still, he isn’t guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster come Mar. 31, so he’ll be an interesting guy to watch in spring training. With Logan Schafer a lock to backup Carlos Gomez in center field, there’s only one outfield bench role to earn before opening day.
As a left-handed bench option, Gindl is the perfect candidate to fill in for Braun or Davis against a tough righty. He’d also be a solid pinch-hitting option late in games as a hitter who is able to take some pitches, fight for an at-bat and be a real threat to find his way on base or knock in a run.
The good news for Gindl is that he’s always been a hitter. He spent the past two-and-a-half seasons with the triple-A Nashville Stars before getting a call up to the Brewers in mid-June last year. In triple-A, Gindl hit .287 with a .356 OBP in nearly 1,400 plate appearances. He’s only a 12-15 home run player, so he’s not really a power hitter, but he does drive the ball into the gap to collect a bunch of doubles. Those two-baggers helped to boost his slugging percentage to .458 while in triple-A, leading to an .814 OPS.
While he will strike out his fair share of times over the course of a season, Gindl has proven the ability to work a count into his favor and drive up a pitcher’s load. His patience allows him to zero in on a pitch he can drive, leading to a high batting average of balls in play (BABIP). While normally that could be seen as good luck, Gindl’s BABIP is derived from quality contact and line drives.
Gindl’s major negative rests in his subpar defense as his range is severely limited and he isn’t blessed with a great arm. That doesn’t necessarily make him a bad option as a fifth outfielder, but it could cost him a spot to a more well-rounded player on the bench. His strongest competition may come from veteran Jeremy Hermida. He’s also a left-handed hitter and has more of a track record, but he hasn’t lived up to his potential throughout his career.
In the end, if Gindl can continue his consistent approach, gap-to-gap hitting and show he can be a quality bat as a pinch-hitter, manager Ron Roenicke will be more inclined to overlook the defensive shortcomings. While you can expect to see Gindl get a decent amount of starts throughout the spring, it would be wise to get him mostly pinch-hit opportunities to see how he handles it.
Give Gindl a slight inside edge on the fifth outfield job in 2014 and a shot at making an impact throughout the year.