When Spring Training began, the biggest story coming out of Braves Camp was the excitement over the debuting Upton brothers. After only five Grapefruit League games, Evan Gattis has managed to steal their thunder.
Gattis went 3-for-6 with a home run, a double, and 2 RBI in his first three appearances this Spring, wowing a number of fans in attendance. He continued to impress on Tuesday, going 2-for-3 with another double during the Braves 9-5 comeback win against the Nationals.
This production may come as a surprise to some, but he’s been putting on an offensive show in the minors for the past two years.
Gattis is a 26-year-old prospect with spectacular power and strike-zone awareness. While playing Single A ball in 2011, he hit .322 with 22 home runs. Last season, he split time at Class A Advanced Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi, combining to hit .305 with 18 home runs and a .607 slugging percentage. He continued to show off his talents in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he hit 16 home runs in 21 games, while sporting a .303 average and a .595 slugging percentage.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Gattis is a very intriguing prospect for the Braves coming into the 2013 season. He has proven to be a very talented player during his time in the Braves farm system, and has showcased those talents even more in the early stages of Spring Training. However, for a 26 year old prospect he is extremely inexperienced, having only spent limited time in the minors after being out of baseball for almost four years. Despite this inexperience, is he worth a roster spot if he continues to produce at this rate in the Grapefruit League?
I believe so. Inexperienced or not, the Braves can’t look past his bat and versatility. The problem is finding a spot for him on Atlanta’s stacked roster.
Gattis has experience at catcher, outfield, and has even been trying his hand at first base as of late. While his defensive abilities are not up to par with his offensive output, he is not a defensive liability. The Braves are set at every one of his potential positions, so Gattis would not likely see time as a regular starter in 2013. However, he could be an extremely valuable asset to the team as a player coming off the bench.
The departure of Eric Hinske and Matt Diaz has resulted in a Braves’ bench that is extremely thin. Aside from Reed Johnson, there is really no player you can fully trust in a late-game pinch hitting situation. Gattis would instantly supplement a bench that has become the weakest part of the team. As a home run threat with the ability to control the strike zone, he has the potential to make up for or surpass the production Hinske and Diaz had a season ago.
Another aspect of Gattis’ game that makes him a valuable roster addition is his versatility at a number of positions. In addition to coming off the bench as a pinch hitter, he could be used as an injury replacement or a fill-in for players needing a day off. His offensive production would also provide minimal drop off in the starting line-up during these situations. With Brian McCann expected to miss at least the first two weeks of the regular season, adding Gattis to the roster would pay immediate dividends for the Braves as he could be a potential replacement for McCann – especially if the aging Gerald Laird and offensively challenged Christian Bethancourt struggle at the plate this Spring.
During his short time in the Braves organization, Gattis – while inexperienced – has shown that he is an extremely talented baseball player. Fredi Gonzalez and the Braves shouldn’t let his inexperience overshadow that talent. The regular season is still over a month away, and there is plenty of Spring ball left to play. But if Evan Gattis continues to steal the show, the Braves will have to find a roster spot for this powerful slugger.