With the news that Lorenzo Cain is opting out of the remainder of the 2020 season, Ben Gamel’s role with the Milwaukee Brewers just got a lot bigger.
On Saturday, Lorenzo Cain announced that he would be opting out of the remainder of the 2020 MLB season due to concerns about the coronavirus. Prior to this decision, he, Christian Yelich, and Avisail Garcia made up the regular Milwaukee Brewers outfield, with Ben Gamel filling in here and there when needed.
However, with Cain no longer with the team this season, moving forward, Gamel’s role is about to get a whole lot bigger.
In 2019, Gamel’s first season in Milwaukee, he once again was the team’s fourth outfielder behind the aforementioned Cain and Yelich, as well as Ryan Braun. But with Braun needing regular days off, Gamel saw a fair amount of action. He would appear in 134 games while slashing .248/.337/.373 with an OPS+ of 116 over 356 plate appearances.
Although in 2020, Braun was no longer going to be a key member of the outfield, with the signing of Garcia, Gamel was still in that backup role. However, with Garcia being more durable than Braun, back in Spring Training, it was unknown how much playing time Gamel was actually going to see this season.
But, as I alluded to above, that is no longer a question as Gamel is going to likely take over for Cain as the everyday starting centerfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers.
While replacing a player of Cain’s caliber is far from an easy task, the good news is that throughout Summer Camp and the first five games of the regular-season, Gamel has been swinging the bat well. In his 13 plate appearances, he’s batting .250 with a .974 OPS, one home run, and an impressive OPS+ of 166.
Of course, we hope that with more regular playing time, Gamel can continue to find success at the plate, but if he ends up playing to his career averages this year with a .263 average and .722 OPS, the rest of this Brewers offense is going to have to pick up the slack that comes from not having Cain in the lineup.
During Cain’s first two seasons in Milwaukee, he had averaged .283 at the plate with a .754 OPS, and he was off to a particularly hot start in 2020 with a slash line of .333/.429/.389 while working his way back up to the top of the batting order.
Meanwhile, from a defensive standpoint, no one is going to match what Cain can provide in centerfield, but Gamel has proven that he can handle those responsibilities. In 2019, Gamel played 137 innings in centerfield, and according to Baseball Savant’s Outs Above Average metric, as a centerfielder, Gamel was slightly above average.
Again, he’s no Cain – but few are – however, it’s not like he’s a total liability either.
In the end, replacing Cain isn’t going to be easy, and to do so – at least offensively – it is going to take a total team effort. In a season where things can change quite quickly, as we’ve seen, Ben Gamel has gone from a backup and spot starter to an everyday player just like that.