I recently completed two early season drafts run by our own Perry Van Hook. Many longtime Mastersball readers will be familiar with these leagues, the JBL and PBY respectively, as Perry and Todd Zola write a recap for Platinum members every year giving readers an early look at these NFBC-like drafts. I am in my second year as a member of these two leagues and I will be sharing my results in the near future, but today I just wanted to focus on a player that I ended up drafting in the reserve rounds of both drafts, Mat Gamel.
In the JBL draft, which started in late December, I selected Gamel in the 23rd rd (#343). Coming into that pick Gamel really wasn’t on my shortlist. I had selected Jed Lowrie in the 22nd rd (#318) to be my MI passing on a group of more traditional CI available to fill my last active position player spot. I had Mark Teixeira/ Brett Lawrie/Chase Headley at 1B/3B/CI and noted that Lowrie also had 3B eligibility meaning that I could always grab another MI with my next pick allowing me to send Lowrie to the bench to cover 4 positions. I had chased some speed with my OF5/UT slots by selecting Jose Tabata and Lorenzo Cain in rounds 17 and 21. Cain was the 6th OF I had drafted and, while I love his upside, I traditionally like to have a power bat in my UT spot. Following my choice of Lowrie, my list of available CI basically disappeared as James Loney, Todd Helton, Scott Rolen, Eduardo Nunez, Adam LaRoche, Mitch Moreland and Danny Valencia all came off the board. Looking at what was left I saw Brett Morel, Placido Polanco, Ian Stewart and Jimmy Paredes. I also noticed the guy who was above all of them, based on my projections, Mat Gamel. Being a slow draft, I had some time to ponder my options, and as I wanted to add power here, I decided to investigate my feelings on the player with the purest power profile.
My initial thoughts on Gamel at the time were likely no different than yours right now as you read this. Just another failed prospect, likely down to his last chance to show he belongs in the majors. A 3B with no chance at time there, now that the Brewers have signed Aramis Ramirez, but a player that is in line to have the first crack at replacing Prince Fielder at first base to start the year. A little further research un-earths some complimentary pieces on Gamel, further cementing the belief that he is going to be given the chance to try and fulfill his promise at 1B. I like the power upside and the fact that he would have dual eligibility making him an ideal backup for all my CI positions if he pans out. I take one last look at the MB projection for him: .245, 16 HR, 51 R, 58 RBI’s in 413 AB’s. I consider Anthony Rizzo for a moment (pre Cubs trade) but decide to roll the dice on the guy who has the best chance to have a job on Opening Day. As a consolation prize, I am able to land Rizzo 30 picks later in Round 25. I feel pretty good about getting them both, thinking that Gamel will get at least those first two months to prove himself, and if he flops again, Rizzo will likely be getting called up himself right about that time.
Fast-forward a couple weeks, and I found myself in a similar situation in the PBY draft. I had drafted Adrian Gonzalez and Pablo Sandoval early in my draft and also nabbed Yonder Alonso to eventually be my CI. Of course, Alonso wouldn’t open the season with 1B eligibility, so I needed a contingency plan for the first two weeks of the season. As my 24th rd pick approached, I again found myself looking for some power at the CI position. A similar list was available with Brent Morel, Polanco, Paredes, and this time Valencia all available along with Gamel. I also noticed that Jesus Guzman was there, and remembering some positive commentary from Perry (who had selected him in the previous draft), thought he would be a nice handcuff pick to Alonso. Having done some more digging on Gamel in the weeks since first drafting him, I found that I had a stronger feeling that something good might be in store for him. The Brewers still hadn’t signed anyone else to play 1B. The job looked like his to lose to me. A quick look at the updated MB projection showed a slight uptick in playing time and a .244/54/17/62 line. I decided to go all in with Gamel and drafted him again. Again, I was able to supplement this gamble by grabbing Guzman around the turn in Rd 25.
Now, I don’t know what’s going to happen with Gamel this year. I just know that he’s going to get one last, long look by the Brewers before they move on and that was enough for me to take a chance on him TWICE this year already. There is no denying the kid can mash and he has nothing left to prove at the minor league level after hitting .310 with 28 home runs and 29 doubles last year at AAA. I can’t deny that Gamel is a risky pick, but, if you are like me you will always be on the lookout for a post-hype sleeper when the reserve rounds roll around. It just played out that he was exactly what I was looking for two drafts in a row. Only time will tell if he will pan out for me, but at least I know one guy I will be keeping a close eye on this Spring.
Who are your late round sleepers this year? If you have anyone you want to discuss feel free to post some candidates in the comments section or on the message boards.