Over the next few weeks, Ray Guilfoyle and I will be highlighting the most polarizing players in our 2015 rankings. We'll make an argument for or against each player based on how we view their value heading into 2015 and the other writer will make a counter-argument. The goal is not necessarily to sway the reader to our side, but to present an even argument for players that some owners feel strongly one way or the other about. First up is Atlanta Braves, catcher turned left fielder, Evan Gattis.
Player: Evan Gattis
Case For Evan Gattis (Presented by Brian Creagh):
Sandwiched between 2014 darlings, Devin Mesoraco and Yan Gomes, I've ranked Evan Gattis 6th overall for the 2015 season. My optimistic valuation revolves around his projected position of LF, which should help keep him healthy for 150+ games. If he gets that many ABs, a 30+ HR season is in order and there is just no one else at the position who can match the power (maybe Wilin Rosario, but I'm not touching that after last season). Gattis probably loses C eligibility after this season, so I can understand a lower ranking in dynasty formats, but if I'm concerned only with 2014, I'm all in on Gattis.
He's going to move to the #3 or #4 hole in the order after the departure of Justin Upton, and while the lineup is not as good as last year - batting behind Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman isn't the worst place to be. My assumption is that playing LF will keep Gattis healthy, and his career 162 game average stats are 65 R, 33 HR, 89 RBI, .253 AVG, .304 OBP, .487 SLG. That's worthy of Top 5 catchers in standard formats.
Gattis' partial 2014 season was eerily similar to his 2013 season when looking at the final stats. However, a deeper dive shows Gattis' 2014 was actually a tale of two halves. In the first half he was an All-Star hitting .290/.342/.558 only to fall apart in the second half. If you're wondering which Gattis we'll see in 2014, I'm more inclinced to believe in the first half, because the end of his season saw Gattis deal with a bulging disc in his back, a bout of strep throat, and kidney stones. Please excuse the man for not repeating his all-star performance.
Many might point to his high BABIP as to the reason of Gattis' first half success, but consider the fact that he was also near the top of the league in hard-hit rate, which easily supports his .314 BABIP. I can't deny the fact that there is considerable risk in drafting Gattis. We haven't seen him for a full season and we haven't seen a consistent stretch from him since joining the Braves. But I'm willing to ride the waves for the power production. There's a chance the .300+ BABIP is sustainable and a .270 AVG isn't out of the question. I'm not sure there will be a single re-draft where I don't have Evan Gattis due to my high ranking of him and the current draft value he's been given.
Case Against Evan Gattis (Presented by Ray Guilfoyle):
I ranked Braves catcher Evan Gattis as my #14 ranked catcher for the coming 2015 season. I ranked him at 14 before I knew the Rockies plans to sign catcher Nick Hundley, who will probably platoon with Michael McKenry in 2015, and that Matt Wieters will probably start the season on the disabled list. In all likelihood, I might move him up to the 12 range in our consensus rankings in a few weeks.
Gattis is coming off a season where he hit .263-.317-.493 with 22 home runs, 41 runs scored and 52 RBI in 108 games. The 22 home runs was his second consecutive 20 home run season, so the power is there for another 20 home run season, assuming he gets enough playing time.
I ranked him low since he is slated to be the Braves starting left fielder to start the season, and I am not sure how well that will go. He isn't a good defensive catcher, and there is no reason to believe he will fare well in left field either. The Braves are in a rebuild and will hand their starting catcher position to Christian Bethancourt, with recently signed A.J. Pierzynski as his backup.
The Braves have been rumored to be willing to deal Gattis, preferably to an American League team, where he could serve as a designated hitter, catch a little and play some left field.
As stated previously, Gattis owns excellent power, but is a free swinger, swinging at 40% of pitches he sees outside the zone. He ranked 8th in MLB in outside the zone swing percentage among hitters with 400 or more plate appearances. He hits more fly balls (45%) than ground balls (39%), and also hits plenty of infield fly balls. Add to that the fact that his strikeout rate rose from 21% in 2013 to 24% last season, and he gets himself out quite a bit.
Gattis is also injury prone, so playing left field could lead to more injuries. He dealt with a bulging thoracic disk in his back last season, missing three weeks as a result, so playing the outfield could cause that to flare up.
Gattis provides owners lots of power, but there is some injury risk in drafting him.