Ben Gamel is a Seattle Mariner now. I know this. You know this. The Angels sure as hell know it after Gamel pestered them for two walks and scored from first on a Guillermo Heredia double within the first two innings of play last night. His debut had some great moments and was a fine preview of the type of skills he brings to the table as Seattle's newest outfielder. Let's get to know the long-locked lefty.
Gamel has been on the radar for awhile now, having been drafted by the New York Yankees out of Bishop Kenney HS in the 10th round of the 2010 draft. He's never been a headliner-type prospect, but he's managed to hit at nearly every level (he for some reason could not hit Double-A pitching to save his life in 2014) and has always been cast in a more positive light in terms of pro potential.
After tearing apart Triple-A for a year and some change, he made his MLB debut with the Yankees on May 6th. He'd collect his first MLB hit a few days later, a soft hopper that found its way through the Royals' infield. With the Yankees having somewhat of a logjam in the outfield, the team sold him off for two lottery tickets in the form of Jio Orozco and Juan de Paula. That brings us to now.
Gamel won't dazzle anyone with displays of power, but he possesses a quick, level swing that will generate a lot of contact.
A small snippet from his prospect profile at MLB.com:
Gamel started to hit upper-level pitching with more authority once he stopped worrying about hitting for power and focusing on what he does best, using his quick left-handed bat to spray line drives from line to line. He worked with Yankees Minor League hitting coordinator James Rowson to improve his load at the plate and hit a career-high 10 homers in 2015, matching his career total from his first five pro seasons.
One of the more unique things about his swing is the way he leaves his front leg dangling in the air for awhile as the pitch is on its way, which you can see below.
Hitters do all kinds of different things with their front foot: jab step, lift only the heel, high leg kick, and so on. Gamel's front foot seems to act as a timing mechanism that sets off his upper half, as he really doesn't load much at all.
One area you'd like to see improvement in is his walk (~8.2%) and strikeout-rates (~18.6%), both of which have been fairly average over the last couple seasons in Triple-A. Developing an improved ability to either work walks or put the ball in play would give a nice bump to his offensive potential. As of now, his overall body of work at the plate actually reminds me a lot of Dustin Ackley (the 2012-2015 version, not the top prospect version).
One other thing about his swing, or in this case his stance, is that he is slowly but surely morphing into Luis Gonzalez.
Give it twenty years and he will absolutely be employing that massively-wide open stance.
Before you go swearing off any interest in Gamel due to my Ackley comparison, let me say that Gamel brings with him a much better handle of the outfield. He has a significant amount of experience at all three outfield positions and is able to handle all of them fairly well. In an ideal world he's a left fielder, but given his plus athleticism and feel for the outfield, he'll get by no matter where you put him. Here's a great look at his instincts out in the field:
The Whole Picture
If you're expecting Gamel to be a game-changing outfielder, you're going to be very disappointed. While he's a solid defender, his glove isn't good enough to make up for what will likely be an average bat. That being said, he would be a perfectly reasonable option as a fourth outfielder who could potentially platoon with Guillermo Heredia in 2017. His defensive versatility is far greater than just about anything the Mariners have had this year and there's no reason to think the bat will be a disaster.