BBDP: Breakout candidate 2013: Where have you Ben all my life?

BBDP Nickname: Gam-Gam

The Basics:

Name: Ben Gamel
Age: 20
Draft: 10th round of the 2010 draft out of Bishop Kenny High School, Jacksonville, Florida
Size: 5-foot-11, 190-pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Best Tools: Hit tool, speed, patience
Needs Work: Power, baserunning
BBDP Ranking: 30

Young ball players often do not develop power until the reach the high minors. One of the most difficult things for scouts to do is project which players will develop power as they progress. Some of the indicators include swing, size and frame, and character. Ben Gamel has two of the three working in his favor as a young outfielder in the Yankees’ system. While he is on the smaller side for a professional baseball player, he possessed a sweet swing that allows him to use all fields and collect extra base hits. So far in his career that has translated into lots of singles, doubles, and triples, but not many homeruns.

He also has another advantage. He knows what it takes to become a major league baseball player and he’s willing to do it. His brother, Mat Gamel, has been in the major leagues for a few years now and can counsel his sibling on the rigors of major league life. By all reports he is also a good kid and an extremely hard worker. Usually that bodes well for those who aim to develop power. Just look at his picture. Doesn’t he look like a major league ball player?

This past season he hit .306/.342/.394/.737. He had two homeruns in 105 games. The major ref flag in his performance is that he had a similar number of extra base hits to 2011, when he played about half the number of games. While this is concerning, what’s not concerning is that he cut down on his strikeouts and continued to walk at a respectable rate in his first full season of the minor leagues. He also hit over .300 which is quite difficult as a 19 year old in Low-A.

Often overlooked because he doesn’t possess the most flashy tool set, that could change in the near future. He’s still young and will be in High-A Tampa next season. He has a few seasons to develop power before we throw him into the Colin Curtis bin (players who were supposed to develop power but never did). If, however, he does get stronger, he could be a fast climber on this list, and someone who could contribute to the major league team in the long term in one way or the other.

His hit tool should be obvious from his ability to hit for average at such a young age, but there’s a reason for this. He has a sweet, left handed swing with good loft, and he uses all fields. Right now this is translating into lots of extra base hits. In the future, some of those balls will go over the fence. In addition to this he has great patience at the plate. Coaches actually had to work with him this season to become more aggressive and get his hacks in at the lower levels.

Finally, he is fast. He is not quick enough to be a full-time centerfielder, but he is good enough to be a plus defender at one of the corner outfield spots. This is why it is even more essential that he eventually hit for power(sorry to harp on that point). He should be able to steal some bases long term though because he is a smart baserunner with above average speed. His baserunning could still use some work, as is shown by the fact that he was caught stealing 10 times this season in 29 attempts.

The long term outlook on Ben Gamel depends on how he continues to develop. There is nothing stopping him from developing the power he needs to make it to the major leagues, except maybe his size. With a floor of Colin Curtis, his ceiling is actually an above average everyday left fielder. He could be a 20 HR, 20 SB, .300 average type of hitter if everything turns out right.

His estimated time of arrival is 2016. He is not the type of player I anticipate skipping levels as he goes along. What I do expect is that this season he will quadruple his homerun total from last season. This would put him at eight homeruns, and well on his way to where he needs to be. I also anticipate an increase across the board in extra base hits, and a higher stolen base percentage.

Gamel is the type of guy who could be fun to watch blossom from a smallish, high average hitter into a major league slugger. His progress will likely be gradual if he is able to get there, but this could be the year he breaks out and puts himself on the fast track to the Bronx.

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