With Evan Gattis' trade to Houston this offseason, he may not play a single game behind the plate, but he is still eligible as a catcher in fantasy terms. Where Gattis will play in Houston is yet to be determined. Astros GM Jeff Lunhow had this to say about Gattis:
"I think the fact that we're an American League team gives us a lot more flexibility going forward," Luhnow said. "There's a possibility he can play some first base, he can DH. We don't know the answer to that at this point. Obviously, we've got a lot of catchers on our roster. We were primarily focused on the offensive side of the equation, and if he produces the way we expect him to he's going to be in the lineup every day."
With the signing of Colby Rasmus,the Astros added depth to an already deep outfield. The Astros now have four outfielders that should see regular playing time this season: Colby Rasmus, Jake Marisnick, George Springer, and Evan Gattis.
The Astros also traded for veteran backup catcher Hank Conger this offseason to backup Jason Castro behind the plate. With the addition of Gattis, that makes three viable catchers for the Astros. So, where exactly does Gattis fit in? Well, with a bat like his, the Astros will certainly find a spot for him, to get his bat in the lineup. Where Gattis plays will likely come down to whether or not Jon Singleton struggles. Gattis could likely see most of his time at either first base with Chris Carter at DH, or vice versa.
The Fake Teams Consensus Rankings has Gattis ranked as the 8th best catcher going into 2015. Gattis is coming off his second straight 20+ HR season. Oh yeah, and he hasn't had more than 401 plate appearances in either season. The problem with Gattis is that he strikes out a lot. Let's take a look at his plate discipline numbers compared to league average.
K% Contact % SwStr% F-Strike% League Avg. 20.4% 79.4% 9.4% 60.6% Gattis 2014 24.2% 73.4% 13.9% 67.6%
Now, let's take a look at Gattis' drop in numbers in 2014 compared to 2013.
K% Contact % SwStr% F-Strike% Gattis 2013 21.2% 77.6% 12.0% 64.9% Gattis 2014 24.2% 73.4% 13.9% 67.6%
Despite the drop in numbers from 2013 to 2014, Gattis was actually able to produce a higher batting average. He posted a .263 AVG in 2014 compared to a .243 AVG in 2013. This can largely be attributed to his significant rise in BABIP. In 2013, his BABIP was .255. In 2014, his BABIP was .298. His 2014 BABIP was much closer to league average and much more realistic, so we can likely see a batting average around .250 or better in 2015.
The fact that Gattis now plays in the AL where he can DH, we can expect a significant rise in his plate appearances in 2015. Also, the move from Turner Field to Minute Maid Park can also benefit Gattis' power numbers. Let's take a look at the dimensions of both fields and Gattis' spray chart from the last two seasons.
Stadium LF Left Center CF Right Center RF Turner Field 335 ft. 380 ft. 401 ft. 390 ft. 330 ft. Minute Maid Park 315 ft. 362 ft. 435 ft. 373 ft. 326 ft.
Minute Maid Park
As you can see, the majority of Gattis' home runs are pulled and hit primarily in left field, and left-center. The move to Minute Maid Park makes it 20 feet shorter in both left and left-center, so Gattis could see a rise in home runs.
What can we expect from Gattis?
Steamer projects Gattis to hit .263, 28 HR, 79 RBI. With a more friendly field for Gattis, I could see Gattis reach 30 home runs this season. Regardless, Gattis should provide plenty of power at a position that generally lacks power. I have Gattis as my 4th best catcher entering 2015, behind Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy, and Devin Mesoraco.