There are certain things it's okay to struggle with as a baseball player. Can't hit a knuckleball? That's fine, Hoyt Wilhelm ever makes a comeback, we'll give you the day off. Struggle against submariners or knuckle-curves or, I don't know, guys named Lopez, and we can hide you when we need to.
You struggle against righties? Sorry, slick, nowhere to hide.
Evan Gattis enters 2014 as the de facto starter in Atlanta, now that Brian McCann is with the Yankees. Sure, Gerald Laird and Ryan Doumit are both Braves, but neither of those guys had the Braves waving bye-bye to McCann; that was Gattis. As a 26/27-year-old rookie last year, Gattis put up a .243/.291/.480 line, with 21 home runs. It was the "21" and ".480" that had the Braves (and fantasy owners) overlooking that little ".291" number in the middle of his slash line, but the truth is, Gattis has some work to do before we can believe he can get on base at even a tenable rate.
Okay, get it out of the way up front - Gattis is a heck of a story. There is a very Into The Wild theme to Gattis' life, leaving school, wandering the West, "finding himself," all that. He returned to baseball in 2010, ultimately, and the Braves drafted him later that year. It makes for a nice story, sure, but it also made for a 23-year-old in rookie ball, and a 24- and 25-year-old climbing through the minors.
So it was neat to see him post a .340 or higher OBP along the minors, but dude was old for his level at every stop, meaning any of those numbers have to be taken with all sorts of grains of salt. That's why his .291 OBP in the majors stands out; it was the first time Gattis wasn't overqualified for a level, and it was the first time he showed a possible inability to get on base. Add in the fact that a good portion of his production came in May - he took Rookie of the Month honors with a .333 OBP in the month. Without that month (no, doing this isn't totally fair), and Gattis' OBP was .257.
That's where his problems with righties comes in.
Across the season, Gattis managed a .265 OBP against righties. That's not a hand-wave-able thing; that's an untenable level of production from anyone, even if he has the glove of Brendan Ryan. And it's against righties; that's not the small side of a platoon. That's 19 games a year against Jose Fernandez, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann. That's another handful of games against Zack Greinke, Adam Wainwright, Mat Latos. Heck, that's 19 games against Nate freakin' Eovaldi. Like I said at the top, if you can't hack it against righties, there ain't no way to hide you.
Ryan Doumit can hold his own against righties. Gerald Laird hasn't been a disaster. So sure, you want to run Gattis out there against lefties only, play him when Patrick Corbin or Wade Miley is on the mound, you'll find success. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the Braves go that route, if they decide to make him the lesser part of a platoon, and Gattis - on a per-plate-appearance basis - is as productive as last year, if not moreso. But if they go that route, they're just hiding him from the righties. And if they don't, fantasy owners can't really hide him against righties. With Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Freddie Freeman all still in Atlanta, it's not like there's anywhere to put Gattis if he isn't catching. One way or another, it's going to be tough to have Gattis as a starting fantasy catcher in 2014.