The Milwaukee Conundrum

Depth is always a good thing. But it can also be frustrating. Such is the case with the Milwaukee Brewers and top offensive prospects Matt LaPorta and Mat Gamel. LaPorta is a first baseman (a DH, really) playing left field. Gamel is a left fielder playing third base.

Movin’ on Up (2008 Double-A stats):

Matt LaPorta  .290/.403/.584 | 19 HR | 63 RBI | 42 BB-60 K
Mat Gamel     .383/.445/.639 | 15 HR | 72 RBI | 38 BB-60 K

Holdin’ Down the Fort (2008 MLB stats):

Prince Fielder .272/.360/.487 | 16 HR | 43 RBI | 39 BB-61 K
Ryan Braun     .282/.317/.544 | 20 HR | 58 RBI | 16 BB-70 K
Bill Hall      .212/.275/.386 | 10 HR | 28 RBI | 18 BB-67 K

LaPorta was selected in the first round (seventh overall) of the 2007 draft out of the University of Florida as a senior, which surprised many because he was blocked at the Major League level by young, talented first baseman Prince Fielder. The Brewers immediately announced the organization’s intention to relocate LaPorta to the outfield. The move was met with skepticism given the lumbering man’s lack of athleticism but he has not embarrassed himself in the field (nor is he an average fielder, though) and he has torn the cover off the ball. In his pro career, he is hitting .300/.398/.643.

Gamel was snagged in the fourth round of the 2005 draft out of Chipola Junior College, ironically in the same draft that saw the club take Ryan Braun (originally a road block at third base, now in left field) fifth overall out of the University of Miami. Gamel was a pretty good value, costing the Brewers $2,224,000 less than Braun. He, like LaPorta, has done nothing but hit in the majors and currently sports a career line of .311/.381/.504. Gamel does not possess as much power as LaPorta, who could be a 40-homer guy, but the former juco player is a threat to hit .300, while LaPorta should be more around the .270-.280 area in the Major Leagues.

If both these players were in different organizations, they may very well have already made it to the major leagues. Bill Hall (.917 fielding percentage) certainly is not keeping Gamel or LaPorta in the minors, so it is clear Milwaukee does not see Gamel as the answer at third base. But neither player is going to move Braun out of left field. However, Fielder’s contract grumblings, offensive “struggles” and physique may make him expendable sooner rather than later. But even that solves only half of the problem.

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Mitch W
Mitch W

As a Florida alum and Mets fan, I say, since they don’t need him, Matt LaPorta to the Mets, who desperately need a young 1st baseman! But I know thats never happening. The Mets will wait until Fielder gets older and fatter and then trade for him…

On a related note, Marc, whats your ETA on Ike Davis to the majors?