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Ben Gamel proves valuable as one of Pirates’ biggest surprises of 2021

Claimed off waivers, Gamel has been pretty good at times for struggling the Pirates

Syndication: The Enquirer
Ben Gamel rounds the bases after hitting a home run on Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Sam Greene via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Second chances.

An additional opportunity to prove yourself and show the world why you believe in yourself and your abilities, and why they should too.

A second chance can be a change of scenery, new surroundings, fresh faces, or returning to a point in time where everything flowed smoothly and steadily on the incline. A second chance is remembered as a defining moment in a person’s life, understanding a new reality and a moment to rediscover yourself.

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Ben Gamel has received not a second, not a third, not a fourth, but a fifth chance to showcase his skills on baseball’s greatest stage; playing a key role in Pittsburgh’s 2021 season both offensively and defensively.

Gamel made his Major League debut as a member of the New York Yankees on May 6, 2016, recording one hit in eight games for the Bronx Bombers before being traded to the Seattle Mariners on August 31 after crushing AAA pitching. In 27 September games, the lefty batter only hit the Mendoza line, slashing .200/.289/.325 over 40 at-bats.

2017 was far and away Gamel’s best MLB season. In his first full year in Seattle and the Majors, the Neptune Beach, Florida native hit .275 with 27 doubles, 11 home runs, and 59 RBI, all career highs to this day.

Despite a career year, Gamel started to trend downward offensively the following season, still hitting in the low .270’s but failing to muster home runs (1) and runs batted in (19) most critical to sticking in an everyday lineup over 101 games played.

Gamel was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in December 2018, spending two seasons with the Brew Crew, combining for 10 homers, 43 RBI, and 143 strikeouts compared to 53 walks in 174 games. Failing to become a dependable regular in Milwaukee, Gamel hit under .250 in both seasons (.248 in 2019, .237 in 2020), striking out nearly 30 percent of the time at the plate.

The Brewers declined Gamel’s $2.55 million team option he signed after the 2019 season and was further non-tendered by Milwaukee, being picked up by the Cleveland Indians to begin the 2021 campaign. Only hitting a meager .071 in 11 games, Cleveland let go of Gamel. The Pittsburgh Pirates claimed the 5’11’’ 177 pounder in May, becoming an everyday regular in left field.

Gamel hasn’t been anywhere near an All-Star level contributor for the Bucs but has produced in situational moments, sparking cries for the team to resign the 29-year-old this offseason.

He’s not Ke’Bryan Hayes with the glove nor Bryan Reynolds with the bat, but he has been a pleasant surprise in a relatively quiet Pirates season and understands his role.

Gamel, though, has displayed good and bad skills overall defensively, but flashed the leather in Chicago earlier this month with an incredible grab labeled as the potential catch of the year.

He has shown versatility across the outfield and in the diamond, playing all three outfield positions and also first base in the Black and Gold.

Slashing .260/.349/.414, Gamel is on pace for his highest on-base, slugging, and OPS totals throughout a full season of his career. 17 doubles, 8 home runs, 25 RBI, and 93 strikeouts compared to 42 walks is nothing to drive home to Pirates’ skeptics, nor should it be.

Ben Gamel is not a catalyst to hit in the middle of a contending lineup, but a veteran role player who could become a valuable bench bat and leader in the clubhouse.

Fans have been driven to Gamel for his heart and hustle displayed in an otherwise forgettable Pirates season— holding the fourth-worst record in baseball—and enjoyed the spark he has brought to the team at times.

Bringing Gamel back on a one-year contract wouldn’t break the bank by any means and could help bridge the transition from veteran to younger outfielders ready to breakthrough from AAA.

Gamel is a solid player and brings energy to the team, but surely isn’t a long-term solution.

One more season for Gamel to man left field before handing the baton to one of Travis Swaggerty, Cal Mitchell, Tucupita Marcano, Canaan Smith-Njigba, or even Oniel Cruz seems fitting, and an opportunity for Gamel to further prove himself as a situational role player stepping in when called upon and able to provide a moment to be remembered by.