Do Brewers Have Another Ryan Braun in Mat Gamel?

Mick StephensonCorrespondent IMay 14, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - APRIL 07:  Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers bats against the San Francisco Giants during Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season on April 7, 2009 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

A young Brewer third base prospect tears up the minor league pitching. He hits for power, average, and drives in runs. But the kid makes error after error in the field.

Sound familiar?

No, I'm not talking about the Brewers slugging left fielder—and former third baseman—Ryan Braun.

The Brewers have called up their No. 1 minor league prospect, Mat Gamel, from Nashville. Gamel has torn up Triple-A picthing this season.

In 33 games with Triple-A Nashville, the 23-year-old Gamel is batting .336 with eight home runs and 31 RBI with 11 doubles and one triple, for a .421 on-base percentage and .652 slugging percentage.

The Brewers have been among the hottest teams in MLB in the last month and, as of today, are tied for first place in the NL Central. After a poor start to the season in which they only won three of their first 11 games, they have now won 17 of their last 23.

Yet, the Brewers still have a couple of problems. Their bench production at the plate, aside from Craig Counsel, had been dismal, and youngster Brad Nelson was 0-for-20 as a pinch-hitter.

Starting third baseman Bill Hall is also hitting a meager .215 against right-handed pitching.

The Brewers will be traveling to three different American League cities for interleague play in the next month and will need a designated hitter for those series.

Enter Mat Gamel.

The Brewer management figures between getting him some pinch-hitting opportunities, some time at third base against right-handed pitchers, and a few series of starting at DH in interleague play, it's a good opportunity to allow the young Gamel to "get his feet wet" in the majors.

The Brewers took this same approach with both Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. In Fielder's case, he eventually went back down to Triple-A, but the following season made the all-rookie team in the big leagues.

When Braun first came up in May of 2007, he started slugging the ball from day one and has never looked back.

The Brewers are hoping for the same success with Gamel. The Crew is a big hitting team as it is, but they could always use more firepower.

Should Gamel burst on the scene like Fielder and Braun, there is a chance he could unseat Bill Hall at third base. But his defense is the big question mark.

Just as Braun had many errors at third base as a rookie, so does Gamel in Triple-A—he already has eight errors this season. But Manager Ken Macha believes Gamel could benefit greatly from working with infield coach Willie Randolph on a day-to-day basis.

As the Brewers finish their home series with the Florida Marlins Thursday, they prepare to fly to St. Louis for a big showdown series versus the Cardinals, who have been in first place for most of the season.

With Hall's ability to play outfield and shortstop as well as third base, a hot start by Gamel could give the Brewers even more options and more slugging as the Brewers try to prove their 2008 playoff run was not a fluke.

Many Brewer fans will be watching with great anticipation to see if in Gamel, the Crew has found another Ryan Braun.

If they do, the Cubs and Cardinals should beware of this young Brewers team.


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