As a fantasy baseball writer, I don’t get paid to play with your emotions. We don’t get paid to spin a deep, complex, interesting character; in fact, the inherent nature of fantasy sports actually dehumanizes players and turns them into number producers that we use to win $jellybeans from our friends. But hey, sports is a deep, complex, interesting character in and of itself, so there’s room for both.
I bring this up because Atlanta Braves‘ catcher Evan Gattis’s is one of those stories about perseverance — about bouncing sky-high off the rock-bottom. Like Josh Hamilton and New York Yankees‘ prospect Slade Heathcott, Gattis kicked his substance abuse habits and fought his way back into baseball relevancy after years of desolate inauspicious-ness. USA Today documented his story nicely, if you care to hear more.
If you do go and check it out, though, make sure to come back, because fantasy advice is why you’re here. So fantasy advice you shall be given! Now we become those heartless fantasy baseball number-crunchers that I mentioned in yesterday’s article blasting Roy Halladay.
Let’s talk about this season and this season only because, while Gattis is a rookie, he’s unfortunately already 26 and probably isn’t your best keeper option for next year. Fortunately, Gattis can help you this year.
Gattis is 6’4” 230 lbs. monster, but is perhaps a 6’4” 230 lbs. misleading monster. Aside from the monstrous power you’d expect from someone that size, BA and consistent contact are also a part of Gattis’s game. With a .308 career average in the minor leagues and 31:40 BB:K in 2012, he’ll consistently get on base and put the ball in play — he had a .389 OBP in three minor league levels last year. The batter’s eye and contact ability are there, certainly, along with power (18 homers in 314 PA last year), but don’t expect the numbers to be that good throughout this season, of course.
In the small sample size this season offers, Gattis struck out five times in 20 PA — a 25% clip (in case you were curious: yeah, I did do that in my head) — which is an 11% increase from his 43 in 314 PA last year (did that one in my head too… no, no I didn’t). This is paired with one walk. Also, for an average-at-best runner, Gattis has a freakishly high, unsustainable .417 BAbip contributable to a 29% line-drive rate that is also unsustainable.
The good thing, though, is that Gattis is gaining Fredi Gonzalez’s favor and has started each of Atlanta’s last three games. We hate to celebrate a player’s injury, but 1B Freddie Freeman and C Brian McCann’s current DL stints are opening up a lot of innings for Gattis to gain at-bats, experience, and to further flaunt his OBP skills in a lineup devoid of such.
Actually, Gattis’s proclivity to get on base has him batting fourth in the Atlanta lineup — behind inferno-hot Justin Upton and in front of Dan Uggla — and in a prime spot to both drive in runs while scoring him.
When he’s in the lineup, it wouldn’t surprise me if Gattis continues to bat in the four-five hole to get on base for sluggers like Uggla or Chris Johnson or for rip-and-runners like B.J. Upton.
McCann hasn’t been a paradigm of health in the past few years, and even when he does return Gattis, will still get regular at-bats if he continues to get on base and hit for decent power.
I wouldn’t rely on him in a 10- or even a 12-team league, but in leagues with two starting catchers or deeper leagues, Gattis might be a surprising source of HR, RBI, and R without killing you in BA.
I also love guys who don’t use batting gloves. I wonder if he uses the Moises Alou technique?