Prince-less Brewers lineup has promise 

January, 31, 2012
Fantasy owners will be debating for the next few months how to handle the draft-day dilemma that Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun presents. Braun is likely to be suspended for the first 50 games of the season. Obviously his is a story with other angles to it, as a 30-homer/30-steal player fights to get to 20/20 in barely two-thirds of a season, but one thing that shouldn't be glossed over is the rest of the Brewers' lineup. Yes, there are Brewers to watch even with Prince Fielder defecting to the American League and Braun likely absent for almost a third of the season!

The Brewers are going to score enough runs to matter, but one of the keys is 26-year-old Mat Gamel, a lefty-hitting corner infielder who has certainly proved himself against minor league pitching. Gamel has been on the fantasy radar for a while, but hey, in an Alex Gordon-kind of way, we must remember it takes some players years to emerge. Gamel was almost the Brewers' starting third baseman a few years ago, but journeyman Casey McGehee swooped in, took the job and ran with it in 2009. McGehee eventually flamed out, while Gamel smacked 28 home runs and posted a .912 OPS at Triple-A Nashville in 2011. In fact, he was good enough in 2010 to warrant supplanting the below-average McGehee, but Gamel still had to wait a year, in part because he couldn't play third base well enough defensively. Now, with the move to first base, he doesn't have to. He's really under the radar, and I love it.

[+] EnlargeGamel
Jesse Johnson/US PresswireMat Gamel, 26, is loaded with power potential.
I think the whole lineup protection thing (how it affects a hitter) is overrated. But I also can't overlook that when someone gets to hit in a typical run-producing slot, it creates opportunity. For example, second baseman Rickie Weeks might knock in 100 runs hitting cleanup for the 2012 Brewers; leading off he might get 70 RBIs. Look at the Brewers' lineup without its top two hitters from last season, and I see opportunity. Gamel is a somewhat forgotten prospect who will fit nicely into the No. 5 or 6 lineup slot. In fact, don't be surprised when he hits well enough to protect Braun in the order.