Yankees Ben Gamel Proving 2015 Breakout Was No Fluke
New York Yankees outfield prospect Ben Gamel has followed up his breakout 2015 campaign with another strong showing this season, and may be in line for a call up to the big leagues.
Most Yankees fans see the team’s number two prospect Aaron Judge as the natural successor to rightfielder Carlos Beltran if he is dealt at the upcoming trade deadline. However, Scranton Wilkes-Barre’s version of Goliath has a scrappy David to compete with in outfielder Ben Gamel.
A 10th round selection in the 2010 draft, Gamel had five decent, but unremarkable seasons in the Yankees system prior to last year. He was good enough to slowly climb the minor league ladder, but never really made a name for himself as a prospect. As recently as 2014, Gamel had a mediocre .261/.308/.340 (80 wRC+) line in a full season with Double-A Trenton.
His first season with Triple-A Scranton in 2015 completely transformed his outlook as a player. Gamel hit .300/.358/.472 (138 wRC+) in 551 PA for the Railriders last season while playing excellent defense at all three outfield positions. He’s also a plus runner who swiped 13 bags in 18 chances.
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As more toolsy outfield prospects Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams missed significant time to injuries, Gamel was a steady presence in the Scranton lineup all year. The Yankees believed enough in Gamel to add him to the 40 man roster after the season, seemingly choosing him over very similar outfielder Jake Cave, who was left exposed to the Rule 5 draft.
His 2015 campaign was strong enough to land him 13th on MLB Pipeline’s list of top Yankees prospects this winter.
Gamel has rewarded the Yankees’ faith in him in 2016 by replicating last season’s success. Through 81 games with the Railriders, Gamel has batted .309/.369/.429 (129 wRC+). His power numbers are down slightly, but he’s getting on base at a higher clip and stealing more bags (14 already).
Although he earned a brief call up when the Yankees were hurting for outfield depth earlier in the season, Gamel has yet to receive an extended shot at the big league level. At worst, he looks like a useful fourth-outfielder down the road, but there is definitely reason to think he could turn himself into an average regular in the majors.
If Beltran is dealt in the next two weeks, Aaron Judge is not likely to be immediately available to replace him because he is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Aaron Hicks and Rob Refsnyder seem likely to get first crack at everyday at bats in rightfield, but a Beltran trade could at least open up a bench spot for Gamel.
A polished hitter with strong contact and on-base skills, a little pop, and good speed, Gamel is a nice jack-of-all trades to have in a reserve role. He’s a versatile defender who could move around the outfield giving the Yankees starters extra rest in the second half without much loss of offense.
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Aaron Judge may be the more exciting player in the long-term, but don’t be surprised if Ben Gamel sneaks past him on the outfield depth chart in the coming weeks.