Call-Ups or Hang-Ups: Milwaukee Brewers and Mat Gamel

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Once again it is collaborative post time here on Call to the Pen.  This month’s topic is September call-ups. To get the ball rolling, I posed the following question to each of our Lead Writers, “Which player do you want your team to call-up in September and why?”  It is a simple question but I think you will find the responses to be very diverse.

Taking the path less traveled this month, I decided to post each team’s write-up individually instead of grouping them by league or division as we have done in the past.  To mix things up further I decided to chime in with my own thoughts on each team.

Up 2nd in our series is Dave McGrath who is representing the Milwaukee Brewers and Reviewing the Brew.

Dave’s Take:

The no-brainer answer is Mat Gamel, who after starting the season on the DL has had a decent year in the minors hitting 14 homers and hitting .312 over 395 PA.

That isn’t exactly Herculean, but it shows that he is healthy and ready to contribute once again. He is still rated among the top-100 prospects in the game, almost entirely thanks to his bat.

Of course, the big question with Gamel is where to play him.

When he was last seen in Milwaukee it was as statue masquerading as a 3B, committing 7 errors in 27 games, after a minor league career that saw him commit an astonishing 172 errors in 551 games at the hot corner.

Add in the emergence of Casey McGehee and its clear that Gamel is going to have to move.

Recently at AAA Nashville, Gamel has been seeing time at first base and right field, as the Brewers prepare for the um… possibility (*cough* certainty *cough*) that Prince Fielder will not be manning first base for much longer. There are arguments that either Hart or Gamel could play 1B in the future, with the other manning right field.

As Gamel hasn’t played either position much yet, I’ve no idea which arrangement makes more sense, but regardless, getting Gamel into the lineup at least 50 percent of the time would benefit both Milwaukee and Gamel and would provide an interesting glimpse into the future.

He is also one of the few, and in my opinion, the most exciting MLB ready prospects in the system right now.

Brett Lawrie, who probably still is the No. 1 prospect in the organization and has, like Gamel, been moving around, playing third base and the outfield during practice. Unlike Gamel, Lawrie is only in AA Huntsville right now.

With Rickie Weeks still at 2B and Lawrie just 20, its hard to imagine the Brewers starting the clock on him just have him see 8 or 9 ABs a week, unless they bench Weeks, which won’t happen obviously.

So, all things considered, it would be exciting and advantageous to see Gamel back in the show, hopefully with some improved defensive results.

~~~~~

My Take:

I whole-heartedly endorse Dave’s selection of Mat Gamel for a September Call-Up.  Beyond that there are some guys who are having fine offensive seasons in Triple-A but are a little long in the tooth.  This group includes Adam Stern (30), Trent Oeltjen (27) and Norris Hopper (31).  Calling any of those three players would be reasonable to reward them for the solid seasons, but none of the three figure to have any real impact on the future fortunes of the Brewers.  Additionally all three of them have sipped the sweet nectar of the major leagues in previous seasons.

Then there is 26-year old Luis Cruz who is hitting 0.291/.321/.434 with 28 2B and 10 HR in 477 PA for the Sounds.  Based on his 2010 performance he deserves a look.  After 10 seasons in the minors, he’s still looking for his first major league action.  The problem for both Cruz and the Brewers is that the majority of his experience has come at SS (792 G), 2B (133 G) and 3B (52 G) where the organization is fairly well set.

At 2B, Rickie Weeks has finally started to turn his potential into results hitting 0.275/.368/.483 with 24 HR and an OPS+ of 130 in a major-league leading 595 PA. He also leads the majors with 20 HBP.  In fairness, Rickie started to emerge in 2009 with an OPS+ of 126 but managed to play in just 37 games. The injury bug has always been his bug-a-boo and while I don’t want to jinx him, Weeks has been able to stay on the field having played in 125 of the team’s 126 games on the year.  If they’re not going to sit Weeks to give Lawrie at look at second, they surely aren’t going to do so for Luis Cruz.

SS is held down by 23-year old Alcides Escobar.  While he hasn’t been as productive as he was in limited action last season, he’s still held his own hitting 0.251/.305/.339 while turning in a 1.7 UZR and 0.8 WAR.  Bottom line is that Alcides isn’t going anywhere and still possesses all of the tools that made him a top-20 prospect in 2009 and 2010 according to Baseball America’s preseason rankings.

As Dave already mentioned in his discussion about Mat Gamel, 3B is occupied by 27-year old Casey McGehee.

Thus Cruz doesn’t have a viable place to gain at bats and major league experience if Milwaukee called him up.

On the pitching side of things, like most teams, the Brewers have a number of potential call-up candidates in their Triple-A bullpen. Of the guys in the Nashville, the one I’d most like to see get a chance is RHP Brandon Kintzler who has a 2.74 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 3.80 SO/BB in 23.0 innings of work.  That stat line comes on the heels of his work in AA where he was absolutely dominant in 22.1 innings pitched. How dominant? See if this line grabs you: 0.40 ERA, 0.54 WHIP, 0.4 BB/9 and 9.3 SO/9.  Yes, that really is 0.4 walks per nine as he walked only 1 batter this year in Huntsville.

In addition to the stats and general performance this season there are a lot of other reasons to pull for Kintzler.  He was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 40th round of the 2004 draft, out of Dixie Junior College, and was in A-ball with the Fort Wayne Wizards by the following season.  Then he injured his shoulder and missed all of 2006.  When he made his way back he was no longer in affiliated baseball and signed on with the Winnipeg Goldeneyes in the Independent Northern League.  He pitched in Winnipeg during the 2007 and 2008 seasons before landing with the Saint Paul Saints in the Independent American Association to start the 2009 season.  After 80.2 innings with the Saints, the Brewers came calling and sent him to Double-A Huntsville where he held his own the rest of the year.  So let’s recap.

Late round pick?  Check.

From a small college? Check.

Ascension derailed by injury? Check.

Willing to pitch in the Independent League to keep the dream alive and work his way back? Check.

Spent time pitching for the Saint Paul Saints? Check.

Making the most of his 2nd chance in the Brewers system? Check.

Here’s hoping the Brewers continue to add to his story by calling him up to make his major league debut.  Oh and if all of the above isn’t reason enough, by way of Baseball Chapel.org, I learned that his grandmother is battling cancer.

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Tags: Adam Stern Alcides Escobar Brandon Kintzler Casey McGehee Luis Cruz Mat Gamel Milwaukee Brewers MLB NL Central Norris Hopper Prince Fielder Rickie Weeks Trent Oeltjen

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