Baby Bombers 2013 MVPs: Tampa

09/25/2013 10:18 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Despite an August promotion to Trenton, Ben Gamel still led the T-Yanks in both doubles and stolen bases.(AP)
The Tampa Yankees used 76 players in 2013, and even when you discount the dozen or so who suited up for Luis Sojo on either a Major League or Minor League rehab assignment, that’s still quite a slew of candidates for this year’s Baby Bombers MVP Award.

Like Charleston, the T-Yanks saw only five men play in at least 70 games, and with three of those five getting promoted to Double-A Trenton late in the year, it was tough to narrow it down. So, we had to look at every category – from the standard AVG-HR-RBI line on down to steals and defense – to single out the man who, on paper and in the field, looked like the leader of Sojo’s club.

In the end, we chose a “repeat” winner: outfielder Ben Gamel, who was also selected as our MVP for Charleston back in 2012.

Gamel played 96 games with the T-Yanks – third most on the squad – and hit .272 with three homers and 49 RBI, which was fourth-most on the team.

Where Gamel really shined, however, was inside those main numbers; within his 99 hits were 28 doubles, which tied for the team lead, as well as 144 total bases, which left him behind only Robert Refsnyder and Gary Sanchez in that category. When he was hitting singles, though, he was just as dangerous, as he led the team with 21 steals, and defensively, he committed just two errors.

So, while Sanchez may have better power numbers, Refsnyder may have more hits and Williams may be the better prospect, Gamel’s combo of offense, defense, and intangibles adds up, in our mind, to be the best overall package down in Tampa this year.

Credit a lot of that development, Gamel says, to Luis Sojo.

“Luis is awesome. He’s fun, and he keeps everything loose so you can be yourself more, but he knows when to turn it on and teach,” Gamel said in August.

To make Gamel an even more attractive choice – and to back up his words about Sojo – consider this: once promoted along with Mason Williams, Gamel was 16-for-67 with four doubles, a home run, and five RBI in 16 games for the Thunder, then played in five of their six postseason games and went 8-for-15 (.517) with three walks and three RBI.

Not a bad coming out party, especially for a man who was still getting his feet under him when caught up with him right before the end of Trenton’s regular season.

“The pitchers you face, I don’t know them as well, but I’m just trying to see some pitches in every at-bat,” Gamel said. “Pitchers here have more confidence in their pitches, know what to throw in certain counts and can work both sides of the plate, so I’m just trying to make those adjustments.”

Now, he’s a two-time recipient of a Baby Bomber MVP Award, but he heads into 2014 in a state of uncertainty; Gamel and Williams were promoted late-season in part because injuries to Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott opened spots, but with those two and Ramon Flores – the proclaimed “dream prospect outfield” – likely headed for a second full-year in Double-A, where does that leave guys like Gamel?

No one can be sure, but Gamel is going to keep working hard either way, even if he is the least “sexy” of the names in that outfield mix.

“We have a healthy competition. Those guys are huge names, and they push me and help make me better every day,” Gamel said. “I’ve played with Mason my whole career and know those other guys from Spring Training and such, so it’s big help.”

As far as the T-Yanks’ Cy Young goes, the pitching staff saw 45 men take the bump, with that group including several “one-and-done” type call-ups, a handful of rehabbers, and even two position players alongside those who were in the trenches every day. That made our decision even tougher than the MVP discussion, but in the end, the numbers determined that we should give the award to the combination of RHPs Scottie Allen and Taylor Garrison.

Allen, who was also promoted to Trenton late in the season, still won a team-high nine games and finished 9-5 with a 3.54 ERA and 112 innings pitched – second on the team to fellow call-up Bryan Mitchell – in 21 starts; Garrison, meanwhile, was promoted from Charleston in May and ended up making 31 appearances, going 5-3 with a 1.87 ERA and a team-high eight saves in 43.1 innings.

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