Replacing Fielder? No small task...
Speaking both literally and figuratively, replacing Prince Fielder is no small task. The Milwaukee Brewers will look to Mat Gamel to fill the spot vacated at first base when Fielder signed a free agent contract with the Detroit Tigers. Gamel, a 4 th round draft pick in 2005, has only 194 at bats in four partial major league seasons. He spent most of 2011 with the Brewers AAA affiliate, the Nashville Sounds. Gamel led the Sounds in most offensive categories and was called up in September by the Brewers. He made only 27 plate appearances for Milwaukee in 10 games.
While it’s clear that Mat Gamel lacks the experience of Prince Fielder, it also remains to be seen if he can contribute consistently at the plate. Fielder’s offensive numbers placed him among the league leaders on an annual basis. The Brewers are certainly not looking for MVP caliber numbers from Gamel. The team needs a solid, if not above average, hitter and nothing more than an average defensive first baseman. After all, Gamel’s predecessor was most certainly not a “web gem” waiting to happen.
The Brewer’s front office has repeatedly said that they are comfortable with Mat Gamel as their everyday first baseman. The fact is he was really their only option. The off season market for established first baseman included Albert Pujols, Fielder, Carlos Pena and Derek Lee. The Brewers could not afford to pay Pujols and Fielder the record setting contracts both eventually signed. Pena and Lee are both on the downside of their careers and would probably not warrant the salaries each would be seeking. Aside from some largely unproven minor leaguers, the only other internal candidate was Corey Hart. Hart has repeatedly expressed his desire to remain in right field. That leaves Gamel as the option at first.
Gamel has been solid so far in Spring Training. He leads the team in both home runs and RBI. Although Spring Training is hardly an indicator of regular season production, the Brewers management has to be pleased with what they have seen. The task of replacing Fielder in the lineup will not fall on Gamel alone. Fielder’s spot in the batting order will be filled by off season acquisition, Aramis Ramirez. The former Cub will play across the diamond from Gamel at third base. The team will also rely on their usual suspects in the lineup. After all, they do have the reigning league MVP in left field. The Brewers allowed a perennial All Star and team leader walk away and sign with another team. If the Brewers intend to return to the playoffs in 2012, Mat Gamel must step up and fill just a portion of the void left by the departure of Prince Fielder. That, however, is no small task.
By: Scott Kasten
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