Losing their second- or third-best slugger to a knee injury obviously will hurt the Milwaukee Brewers. But they do have options to cover the absence of Corey Hart for the first six weeks (or possibly more) of the regular season.
The Brewers announced on Friday that Hart will have arthroscopic surgery next week, which will clean out the joint and repair torn meniscus in his right knee. It's the same knee Hart had surgery on during the spring of 2012 to fix cartilage damage. Recovery this time is expected to be three or four months, which pushes his potential return to the lineup into May.
Sunglasses at Night have been lowered to half-cheek in honor of Hart.
It's somewhat serendipitous that Mat Gamel, whom Hart replaced at first base early in the 2012 season after he torn the ACL in his right knee, is standing by to play there in Hart's place. Gamel at one time was one of the Brewers' top prospects but, at age 27, has not developed. And nobody will expect him to equal Hart's production — .270/.334/.507 with 30 homers in 622 plate appearances. But this is the last chance with the Brewers that Gamel didn't get in 2012.
And if he's not up to it, there is another.
Hunter Morris just turned 24 years old and the Brewers aren't entirely sure what he is yet. He's a left-handed swinger (hey-hey!) with a great name. "Hunter Morris." Sounds like a ballplayer. Like a doubles-hitter! But he might just be another Gamel, as bloggist Jack Moore at Disciples of Uecker pointed out in October when he compared Gamel to Brett Wallace of the Astros:
We’ve seen both Gamel and Wallace fail to develop into anything worthwhile at the major league level, although Gamel’s path to consistent major league at-bats has been blocked by Prince Fielder and an ACL tear. Wallace owns a career .250/.323/.377 line (-0.4 fWAR) in 792 plate appearances; Gamel has a .229/.305/.367 line (0.0 WAR), albeit in just 269 plate appearances.
In both cases, they needed to develop something on top of what they showed in the minors and failed. For both Gamel and Wallace, it was more than just average pop from a first baseman — they can’t hit just 15-20 home runs and succeed in the majors. For Morris, the hurdles are plate discipline and contact — he almost surely won’t be able to walk at a below average rate and strike out at an above average rate and be a productive major leaguer. The other first basemen are too good at hitting; Morris’s defense and speed are too poor.
Oh, man. Maybe we should all just pull for Hart to get back real soon.