Braves sign Gamel to minor league deal

The Braves have signed former Brewers prospect Mat Gamel to a minor league contract, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith.


The AJC's David O'Brien confirmed the signing with a source and said Gamel will receive a spring training invite.


Gamel was waived by the Brewers in October and picked up one day later by the Cubs, who then non-tendered him Dec. 3.


Gamel, a 28-year-old from Jacksonville, Fla., has dealt with serious injuries lately, tearing his right ACL in consecutive seasons between 2012-13 and losing two years of possible full-season play. All of a sudden, the prospect considered by many to be one of the best young bats in the Milwaukee system is now in the middle of his prime with only a .229/.305/.367/.296 wOBA/78 wRC+ line and six home runs in 269 career plate appearances.


Gamel still has time to carve out a major league career, although his chance of starting full-time is probably gone. As a left-handed bat with a plan at the plate and power, Gamel could produce well off the bench, which the Braves could use after having little pop in pinch-hit roles this past season.


Gamel knows how to get on base with good contact and solid walk rates, and he doesn't strike out much. His plate discipline is a step above his power, but he still popped 28 home runs and had a .390 wOBA at Triple-A Nashville in 2011.


If Gamel makes the team and is used off the bench, he should be strictly a pinch-hitter, because the defense isn't very good. He can play both corners, but scouts have turned their noses at his third-base defense in the past.


Kevin Goldstein, formerly the prospect writer at Baseball Prospectus and now employed by the Astros, wrote this on Gamel in 2008:


"The Good: His offensive skills are considerable, as he works counts well and began to tap into his power during the second half of last year, hitting eight of his nine home runs after the All-Star break. He's a good athlete with above-average range at the hot corner and a strong arm.
The Bad: Despite his physical gifts, Gamel is a horrible defender who made 53 errors last year, followed by 10 more in 33 Hawaiian Winter League contests. It's frustrating to scouts, as he has the instincts and athleticism to play the position, but at times it almost seems that he has a case of the yips concerning his glove work. Offensively, he has few faults, although good left-handers often give him trouble."


Not much has changed since, as Gamel continues to be a bat-first player with offensive skills. Coming from the left side of the plate, that could be important to the Braves.

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