Mat Gamel, the Milwaukee Brewers' perennial first-base prospect, will miss the entire 2013 season with a knee injury. The NL Central is not off to a healthy Spring Training start.
He's not Chris Carpenter, and they're not the St. Louis Cardinals, but the Milwaukee Brewers had significant plans for Mat Gamel, who's out for the season after another injury to his right knee. Gamel's injury leaves the Brewers without a replacement for Corey Hart, who could miss two months after undergoing surgery for his own right knee injury. Meanwhile, Matt Garza might miss some regular-season time after hurting himself taking [edit: throwing] batting practice.
Pitchers and catchers just finished reporting, but Spring Training has already hit the NL Central pretty hard. If this were an Agatha Christie novel—and I really wish it were—we'd have just hit the part where Hastings is sure the Cincinnati Reds are behind all of it.
While the Reds loudly protest their innocence and Poirot meticulously adjusts his mustachios, we're left with an early look at each contender and non-contender's depth, now being surfaced well ahead of schedule.
St. Louis Cardinals—Chris Carpenter
This, of course, is what John Mozeliak lives for; the Cardinals were only able to rely on Chris Carpenter in the first place because they were fully prepared to rely on somebody else instead. Like the Cardinals' 2012 gamble on Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman, Carpenter and the kids weren't starter and depth so much as starter-depth and starter-depth.
We don't know who somebody-else is, yet, but Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller, and Trevor Rosenthal would all be perfect fits for the job if they were the Cardinals' only option; that they're all in camp is enough to make Scott Boras cry soft, silent tears.
Milwaukee Brewers—Corey Hart and Mat Gamel
This just doesn't seem quite fair. Behind their athletic 31-year-old first baseman the Brewers had wisely stowed Mat Gamel, who is stereotypically perfect depth: A misfit ex-prospect with lingering upside. Behind him—well. You're better off asking Brew Crew Ball, but their commenters suggest 24-year-old AA alum Hunter Morris—ZiPS projection .253/.289/.449—and 25-year-old outfielder Khris Davis (.243/.331/.410), who looks a little like the kind of outlet-mall prospect the Cardinals have been able to turn into Allen Craig and David Freese.
That's not bad, considering Hart's due back before midseason, but both of them will have to be wary if they're going to avoid becoming the Right Knee Killer's next victim.
Chicago Cubs—Scott Baker, Matt Garza?
The Cubs signed Scott Baker knowing he might not be ready for the start of the season, which is kind of cheating, for our purposes; he's on schedule in Spring Training, but the Cubs are justifiably reticent re: what that schedule looks like. Garza, meanwhile, hurt himself throwing BP after missing the end of 2012 with an unsteady elbow, though it's not an arm injury.
The Cubs are in a weird place, as an organization, and Garza is a free agent after the season, so the most pressing concern here might be just what kind of midseason trade chit he is. If the injury lingers he could go from an Edwin Jackson type to one of those late-July lottery tickets who puts together 10 really good starts after an extended layoff.
Pittsburgh Pirates—Francisco Liriano, kind of
The Pirates—perennially in a weird place, as an organization—wanted badly to give Francisco Liriano a two-year deal, but he managed to get hurt before he signed the contract, let alone reported, breaking his arm "when he slammed it against a door, trying to startle his kids Christmas Day. #pirates"
He passed his physical and signed a new contract, which is almost entirely incentives; he's due back in May. This is good news, inasmuch as the other left-handed flamethrower with a checkered recent history the Pirates signed was Jonathan Sanchez.
According to Charlie Wilmoth, the best bet for the job in the meantime is Jeff Locke, who's coming off a very nice season in AAA. John Sickels likes him, too, so I'm not entirely sure what he's doing as the Pirates' sixth starter in the first place.
The Reds, so far, are unscathed, although they seem determined to be very nervous about Aroldis Chapman for the duration of his transition from reliever to starter. But there's a lot of Spring Training left, and an entire international baseball tournament to scapegoat—it's easy enough to assume that by April we'll see more depth evaporate across the division.