Pittsburgh Pirates: Ben Gamel Was An Underrated Claim


The Pittsburgh Pirates made an underrated claim of Ben Gamel early this year and it’s paid dividends despite being a fairly under the radar move.

The Pittsburgh Pirates made a mostly un-talked-about move on May 9th of this season when they claimed outfielder Ben Gamel off waivers from the Cleveland Indians. It’s understandable why. Gamel has mostly served as a fourth outfielder for most of his career. He had two solid but unimpressive seasons with the Seattle Mariners in 2017 and 2018, but still wasn’t anything more than a league-average hitter who averaged about 1-2 fWAR.

The Pittsburgh Pirates took a gamble on Gamel in an effort to strengthen their outfield depth and so far, he’s been quite the underrated pick-up for Pittsburgh. In 154 trips to the plate, Gamel has hit .263/.327/.474 with six home runs and 9 doubles. Across a 600 plate appearance stretch, he would average 23 home runs and 35 doubles.

All told, Gamel has put up an excellent 117 wRC+ and .343 wOBA since joining the Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s also collected 0.9 fWAR, which puts him on pace for about 3.5 fWAR in 600 trips to the plate.

Gamel has been slugging the ball as well. He currently has a .212 isolated slugging percentage. Much of his power has to do with his above-average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, which sit at a strong 90.3 MPH and 39.1% rate respectively. Gamel’s exit velo ranks 92nd among the 284 players with at least 100 batted ball events. He has an impressive 7.6% barrel per plate appearance rate, which is in the top 70 players in baseball.

The outfielder’s good batted ball rates go well with his batted ball types. He’s hit a line drive at a 29.3% rate and ground balls at just a 27.3% rate. So far this season, he is the only player with at least 150 trips to the plate and a line-drive rate higher than his ground ball rate.

Gamel also isn’t getting severely unlucky either. He has an expected line of .253/.327/.451, which isn’t far off from his actual production so far. Plus he has an xwOBA of .338. Though DRC+ only has him at 81, which is far off from his wRC+ so far.

Overall, he hasn’t hurt the team defensively either, quite the opposite. Gamel has seen time at all three outfield positions where he has 0 DRS, but a strong 7.6 UZR/150 and 2.2 range runs above average. OAA is the least friendly with Gamel having him at -3, but the fact he’s provided solid defense and has played all three outfield positions make up for his sub-par outs above average mark.

Next. Nick Gonzales Slugging for Greensboro. dark

So far, Gamel has provided exactly what the Pirates wanted when they claimed him. A semi-regular or fourth outfield option to help provide some solid play for the team. He’s been quite an underrated pick-up. Not too often do you pick up a player on waivers and he puts himself on pace for over 3 fWAR. Now granted, small sample size, but even if he regresses to more of a league-average bat, the claim will be more than worth it.