Is Evan Gattis Fantasy Relevant?

Evan Gattis burst onto the scene in 2013 a virtual unknown to fantasy players and Braves fans alike.  He hit 12 home runs in close to 140 at bats the first two months and had fantasy owners clamoring that Atlanta should trade McCann.  Who was this kid, where did he come from, and could he continue to produce like this over a full season?  Well we all know who he is now and where he came from.  As for the question about his production for the remainder of the season, it tailed off some but gave fantasy owners hope.  Now that McCann is gone, Gattis should receive the lion’s share of starts behind the dish.  The question is, does that mean he should be starting for your fantasy team?

Gattis showed us some very good power last year.  He hit 21 home runs in 354 at bats.  That’s just as many as Wilin Rosario & J.P. Arencibia in 100 less at bats and only one less HR than Matt Wieters.  The 21 home runs places him 22nd in the outfield along side Shin-Soo Choo, Andrew McCutchen, Josh Hamilton and Nate Schierholtz.  According to baseball heat maps his average fly ball distance in 2013 was 293.11 feet, good enough for #40 on the list (McCann was 39th).  To solidify things Gattis had a 17.1% HR/FB ratio, so we can assume the power is real.  Looking at the names above he’s in some good  company as far as power hitters go, but he’s also next to some questionable names as well.

While there is no question to his power, his batting average raises some red flags.  He ended the year batting .243, finishing right between Geovany Soto & Matt Wieters.  That number was inflated by a terrific May where he hit .317.  If you take out those 63 at bats the average drops to .227 which puts him a point above Russell Martin.  Now you may believe that a .243 average is acceptable and Gattis could improve, but there are several things that say otherwise.

First there are his splits.  Gattis batted .260 verse left-handed pitchers, but that average fell to .236 against righties.  Now his average against right handed pitchers could improve as he receives more at bats, but given his limited major league experience it may take another year as pitchers will start adjusting to him in 2014 now that they have gotten a look at him.  How he adjusts will determine his fate.  There is also an issue with his home/away splits.  At home he’s a .266 hitter but on the road the average is only .224.  Again this is something that could improve, or he could be one of those players who only hits at home (see every player in Colorado).

Next there is his Line Drive percentage which sat at 14.5% in 2013.  The league average line drive rate is usually close to 20% so Evan’s is low.  Considering close to 75% of line drives end up as hits this number will have to improve some in order to help his batting average.  On the opposite side Gattis had a fly ball percentage of 44.6% and while a high number here helps his home run chances, only about 22% of fly balls result in a batter reaching base.

Moving on we look at his anorexic walk totals.  Gattis walked one time for each home run he hit, so he ended up with 21 walks for the season.  Now some hitters can get away with a low walk total, but not many survive with a walk total this low.  In comparison, J.P. Arencibia had 18 walks in 2012 over the same number of at bats as Gattis had in 2013.  We see which direction J.P.’s career is headed despite the power, and just like J.P. he has a problem with strikouts.  81 strikeouts might not seem that high, but a strikeout percentage of 21.2 isn’t a recipe for success.  That’s Russell Martin Territory.

So he strikes out like Martin, Walks like Arencibia and has a batting average comparable to Soto.  Maybe it’s me but I’m not getting that warm and fuzzy feeling and I haven’t even talked about his .255 BABIP.  Atlanta will give Gattis an extended leash to work out his problems due to his power (Just like Arencibia in Toronto), but if things don’t improve or the splits become more extreme the Braves do have Gerald Laird on board.  If it comes to this Gattis could find himself losing at bats to right handed pitchers or worse yet, in an outright platoon and nobody likes a part time catcher in fantasy.

So how does Gattis stack up against the rest of the catchers going into the 2014 season?  Last year he ranked 15th on ESPN’s player rater and 16th in CBS points leagues.  He’s currently the 12 catcher off the board in mock drafts according to couch managers ADP.  Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Brian McCann, Yadier Molina, Carlos Santana, Wilin Rosario, Jonathan Lucroy & Salvador Perez should all be taken before Gattis so in an 8 team league he’s irrelevant.  Matt Wieters and Jason Castro are were also ranked above Gattis in 2013 and are being selected before him in mock drafts, so in a 10 team league he can also be ignored.

Wilson Ramos did not rank above Gattis last year but he is being taken before him in mock drafts.  So if you’re in a 12 team league rolling the dice on Gattis once those players are gone is an option assuming you believe in his upside and prefer him over players like A.J. Pierzynski, Yan Gomez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Miguel Montero, Travis d’Arnaud and Russell Martin.  I’m not a fan of old man Pierzynski but more than likely I’m selecting him or banking on a rebound from Montero before selecting Gattis.

Now all of this is based upon a limited sample size so anything can happen in 2014, but given what Gattis has done and the depth of talent at the catcher position, he shouldn’t be thought of as anything more than a backup catcher/bench guy come draft day in anything shallower than a 14 team league using only one catcher.  You can gamble on his upside but doing that is the same thing as gambling on a rookie, there is potential but there is also the potential to get burned.  If you draft Gattis, take him as a backup plan in hopes that he can outperform your current starter.  He was a nice surprise for a few months last year for those of us that needed the help at backstop, but he will probably be a disappointment to those of you that think lightning will strike twice.  Caveat emptor.

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Jim Finch

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The self proclaimed Grand High Exhausted Mystic Ruler of Fantasy Baseball. While I am not related to Jennie or Sidd Finch, I will attempt to uphold the integrity of the Finch family name as it relates to baseball.

9 thoughts on “Is Evan Gattis Fantasy Relevant?”

  1. Nice piece Jim.

    We usually hear so much about the upside for breakout players like Gattis, but you rarely hear about the risk factors. Gattis could still provide a great value, but it is no sure thing.

    1. I was a believer in Gattis until I looked closer at the numbers. Now, not so much. He’ll more than likely go off the board earlier than I would consider taking him anyway.

  2. Good analysis, but if you’re allowed to take out a good month of May can’t we also take away the 60 at-bats in June and August when he struggled in part-time duty? I get that he’s certainly not going to hit .300, but cherry-picking small portions of a season is tough to rely on. I look at his 1st half/2nd half splits, along with periods when he got more playing time and see a .245-.250 hitter; not great but with his power certainly nice to have at the catcher position.

    1. Looking at first and second half splits he batted .252 in the first three months and .236 over the final three, and a weak second half isn’t a strong endorsement. To be fair since I took out his best month, I recalculated things taking out his best and worst month and came up with a .240 hitter. Both numbers are below the .243 he finished with.

      And both my numbers and your numbers still don’t address the glaring problem of his splits. The power is nice but if he can’t hit righties or on the road, he’s not a stable option. You’re gambling on his upside, but I’m only looking at him if the 11 names I mentioned above are taken.

  3. I don’t argue with your placement. I’m more addressing the question you asked in the title. Is he fantasy relevant? Most definitely, unless you’re playing in that eight-team league with one catcher.

    As far as splits go, FanGraphs has him at .246 and .241. Also note that his two worst months were also the two months where he had the fewest at-bats. In every month he had over 40 ABs he hit .241 or better.

    There’s obviously some batting average damage involved either way, I just don’t think we can take too much from last year’s inconsistent splits.

    BTW, love what you guys are doing with the site. Lots of good stuff. And it’s nice to be able to debate baseball.

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