2015 Statistics: 129 G, .300/.358/.472, 28 doubles, 14 triples, 10 HR, 13 SB, 138 wRC+
2015 Level/Roster Status: Triple-A/Non-40
Ben Gamel, younger brother of former Major Leaguer Mat Gamel, was drafted by the Yankees in 2010 in the tenth round of the MLB draft. Gamel brought speed and good contact skills to the minor leagues, and the Yankees seemed to think he had the versatility and skills to play all three outfield positions. However, after a good beginning to his Yankee career, his production fell off a cliff when he found his way to Double-A ball in 2013, posting a 72 wRC+ and a .239 batting average in 72 plate appearances. When he began the year there in 2014, Gamel showed little improvement, hitting .261/.308/.340 in an entire season at Trenton.
After two disappointing years, it's easy to understand why Fangraph's Kiley McDaniel left Gamel out of his top 30 Yankees prospects before the beginning of the season. He said that Gamel was still a "plus runner that can play all three outfield spots," but suggested that too much of an emphasis on trying to hit for power had "undermined [his] whole package." To stack the deck even more against Gamel, he didn't get any more time at Double-A to show his stuff, as the Yankees sent him in Triple-A despite his offensive struggles.
Against the odds, though, Gamel had his best season of professional baseball in 2015, hitting for a .300 average and slugging higher than he ever had at any minor league level. Perhaps he finally found out how to hit for power without compromising his contact skills, but either way, Gamel managed quite a promising performance this past season. He improved his plate discipline, raising his BB% from 6.1% last year all the way to 8.3%, posted an OPS of .830, and even led the entire International League in triples with 14. He was one of the best hitters in Scranton this year among the regulars there, and his high triple count shows that he's still got the dangerous speed that also makes him a good fielder. All told, this was a breakout season for Gamel, and a surprising one as well, after his significant struggles at the plate in Trenton.
Gamel is still just 23 years old, so he has time to develop into a serviceable major leaguer. While he probably won't amount to more than a fourth outfielder, if he can handle the bat close to as well as he did this year in the future, some team will find time for him at the major league level. While he's due for some regression next year (his .364 BAPIP this season is well above his career average, and while not completely due to luck probably has something to do with it in his case), he could still be an above average hitter at the Triple-A level. While the Yankees outfield is crowded and there are a few prospects who will probably get time at the major league level, if Gamel hits like this again, he could find his way onto the Yankees bench at some point in 2016. If they don't have room for him, another campaign like this will still make him valuable enough to be a potential trade chip in the future.