Gattis Expectations Too High?

evan-gattis

Evan Gattis

Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis became a folk hero last season with his rags to riches story, mammoth home runs, late game heroics and engaging personality.  With Brian McCann leaving for free agency, Gattis will be the Braves starting catcher and is expected to be a major force in the Braves line-up.

Are the expectations for Gattis too high?

It was revealed that Gattis had surgery last October to remove a dime-sized bone chip from his right knee that had been bothering him since October 2006.  He was brought along slowly in the spring and you have to wonder if there could be lingering effects.

Most of the time I don’t worry about minor knee surgeries, those type procedures have become as simple as cutting your fingernails.  But a red flag went up the other day when Fredi Gonzalez announced that Chris Johnson will be his clean-up hitter and Gattis will be hitting seventh behind Dan Uggla.   Early in the spring, Gonzalez had stated that Gattis would be batting clean-up.

How do you go from being the clean-up hitter to hitting behind Uggla?  How and why did that happen?  Gattis hit only .204 in the spring with a .204 on-base-percentage and we all know that spring stats are not all that important.  Has Fredi Gonzalez seen something he doesn’t like?

Gattis had a good first half last season, but slumped down the stretch.  He needs to be more selective with the pitches he goes after to have a big  year.  I tend to think that he will make those adjustments, but I’m writing it in pencil until he shows that he is healthy once the real deal starts.

Profile photo of Jim Hart About Jim Hart

Jim has covered the Atlanta Braves since 2008 for local and national broadcast news organizations. He also appears regularly talking Braves baseball on WCCP-FM in Clemson, South Carolina, and the ESPN Radio affiliate, 1420 Sports in St. Augustine, Florida.

Comments

  1. NorthAlabamaGM says:

    From early discussions we have had, Gattis in the lower part of the lineup is a good thing. He will get plenty of fun producing opportunities if Justin. Can, and Uggla’s .350 OBP in front of him.

    • NorthA.. you are locked in on Uggla’s .350!! ROFL! Lets hope he has a good year. Great guy who could be a real leader in the locker room if his numbers are good. They don’t have to be great, good would be nice.

  2. Wayne Canon says:

    “How do you go from being the clean-up hitter to hitting behind Uggla?”
    Jim, that has to be the ‘unkindest cut of all’ LOL!
    I really expected Gattis to drop off this year…it’s hard to be a superhero two years in a row…but certainly not to this extent.
    Maybe dropping him down in the order may take some of the mental pressure off.

    • That’s true, it may take the pressure off. Although hitting 7th behind Uggla and in front of Simmons means that he won’t have Freeman in front of him on base all the time and someone like Chris Johnson behind him for protection. Hitting 7th Gattis is now the guy who pitchers will be pitching around. Will he be selective enough when pitchers are pitching him off the plate?

  3. Jim, I do think expectations for Gattis are too high. He came out on fire last season, and has quickly faded. This spring he has been unimpressive, and the daily grind behind the plate won’t help. He sprinted out of the gate last season, giving us all a reason to believe. Here’s hoping he gets his second wind soon!

    • Lee, I tend to think that Gattis is an adrenaline type player. He was good last spring ’cause he had to be good to make the team. This spring it was just about getting ready, he already has his job. I think when the games start for real that he will be ready.

  4. I think he’ll be fine this year as long as it’s recognized that his primary job is catching and note El Oso Superstar. Gattis’ lineup spot is designed to take the pressure of being cleanup man and full time catcher off of him. Some forget that 14 months ago he was expected to play in Mississippi and not Atlanta. His age aside as a pro he’s still finding his way. I don’t have any illusions that he’s another Molina, Posey or McCann either behind or beside the plate but I do think he’ll be at least major league average and likely better something near 250, 20 homers and 20 doubles. The one thing Gattis can and will do is hit balls with authority. He pulls ground balls but hits line drives up the middle and to left and enough to indicate he takes what he’s given, His fly balls were relatively evenly distributed to all fields as well. He’ll never hit 300 but not many catchers do. Attempting to play left field last year hurt him at the plate and Fredi did him no favors slotting him into the cleanup spot though with effectively a five man lineup and 3 pitcher’s slots he had little choice. Seventh is a pretty traditional slot for a catcher with power and he fits that spot well.

    • Fred, I agree with your projections on Gattis and that 7th is a good spot in the order. Is 7th a good spot hitting behind Uggla? Will Gattis lead the league in solo homers? He needs to be up with RBI opportunities available. Uggla isn’t exactly known for moving runners. Why did Fredi early in the spring that Gattis would be his clean-up hitter and his only problem was figuring out who was going to hit clean-up when Gattis wasn’t in the line-up. How did he go from hitting clean-up to 7th behind Uggla? What changed?

      • fireboss says:

        Better behind Uggla than in front of him besides, I suspect Uggla will start well even if he slumps later. As far as the early designation at cleanup hitter, Gattis quad injury limited his at bats as well as his time catching the front line pitchers. My concern with him has always been his inexperience in sequencing for less experienced starters. I suspect, though of course we can’t know, that he’s spending lots of time with Eddie Perez and Laird working on that rather than his swing. Moving him to 7th removes the pressure of being in the four slot and allows him to concentrate on the primary responsibility of being starting catcher.

        • Last season it appeared to me that the starters had better ERAs with Gattis behind the plate than they did with McCann. At the very least, no worse. I’d be interested to see that stat if it is available. I’d like to see Gattis start around 110 games at catcher this season. Laird is a darn good catcher and can give you some pop and Doumit needs to play some there, too. Regarding Uggla.. every year Fredi starts him in the middle of the line-up and every year he gets moved down as the season progresses.

          • He had a better ERA with Medlen, Maholm, Hudson and Minor as I recall. All of those guys were experienced enough to know what needed to be done. Of those Minor is the only one back this year. Teheran did better with McCann who is a very under rated game caller. Teheran, Wood and Hale have 37 starts between them that’s where the issue is. Once Minor and Floyd enter the fray and Harang take the designated rocking chair location it won’t matter as much.
            Doumit’s catchers mitt should be burned.
            Laird is at the bottom of pitch framing – Gattis is better – and wasn’t as successful with Teheran as Mac in spite of the “special relationship” developed last spring that Fredi said made Teheran better. He’ll get a couple fo games a week. Gattis – barring somethign unexpected – will get 110 starts. Doumit should be used in blowouts only.
            Uggla slipped because he was missing strikes. He wasn’t this spring which means only that he was better than last spring but also give him a positive push into the season. If he falls into strikeout hell again we’ll see a lot of Pena and Rev until they can give . . . err trade him and get La Stella up.

          • So he Gattis a better ERA with four of the five starters and the other starter (Tehran) had Laird as his exclusive catcher most of the season. In other words, Gattis did a better job than McCann did with the starting rotation. McCann hit in the middle of the line-up and he was 5 years younger and a lot less physically mature than Gattis is now. Gattis is the most physically gifted catcher the Braves have had since Javy Lopez and he is a 27-year old man. Gattis hit clean-up last year, so there’s no reason to move him down to 7th behind Uggla this year and his catching skills are a non-issue. He’s a good catcher. If his calling a game is any kind of concern, they can call pitches from the bench. Fred, you have given me no valid reason why Gattis should hit 7th behind Uggla.

          • You miss the point and make assumptions that aren’t accurate.
            The starters he succeeded with were all seasoned enough to call their own game and none are available now. Of the current starting 4, Harang is the only one with that kind of experience and that’s a scary thought.
            Teheran had most success with McCann not Laird or Gattis. this is not to say he can’t succeed just that he need to emphasize that side of his game and not worry about the rest.
            As a physical specimen Gattis may be among the best but his actual experience is is small and being built a certain way doesn’t make you a good or even a serviceable catcher.
            Gattis lost 4 years of development when he went walkabout and since signing has 115 minor league games where he spent at least part of it behind the plate and 39 last year in the majors. That’s why his defense isn’t where it should be for his age and why his signal calling and situational recognition also lag. He has to concentrate on his defense and not worry about being the guy the team counts on in the cleanup slot where last year his slash was .207/..259/.374.
            That slash and a spring where he got only 49 plate appearances (.204/.204/.367) are why he’s hitting down the lineup. If his bat doesn’t wake up by mid-may he could well be catching at Gwinnett with Lerud backing up Laird in Atl.

          • You can pick apart almost every single player’s stats. Justin Upton had a great April and August, was below average the other 4 months. Chris Johnson has trouble fielding at third, Heyward didn’t hit for the first half of the season, Simmons at times flails at the plate. Should they all be sent down to Gwinnett this year if it happens again? Why weren’t they sent down last year? Gattis could hit left-handed and contribute as much at the plate as BJ. did last season. Could Gattis’ defense be better? Sure it could, but it is good enough right now that he is not a liability behind the plate and when you look at the ERA last season when Gattis was behind the plate, it bears that out. Regarding calling a game, like I said before, they can call the game from the bench.

          • Of the players you ask – why weren’t they sent down? – only Simmons had options available and his glove was irreplaceable.

            I didn’t pick apart his stats I simply showed why he isn’t hitting cleanup. Simply put there are better options.
            Major league teams don’t call games from the bench in anything but extreme circumstances. It just doesn’t work.
            When Gattis settles in and if his bat becomes what everyone believes it can be he’ll be the cleanup man.

          • I agree with that except that the main question posed was why did Fredi announce early this spring that Gattis was the clean-up hitter and change his mind? Poor performance in the spring has never derailed the plans for a regular on this team. Regarding what he hit last year in the clean-up spot, Fredi made his announcement this spring. So Gattis’ numbers in the clean-up spot last year obviously haven’t changed. Nothing has changed that we know of, so why did Fredi make the change? Is Gattis’ knee worse than reported? What are your thoughts on that, Fred?

          • Wayne Canon says:

            I sort of disagree about his handling pitchers.
            I paid special attention last year as to how he was doing behind the plate. I was worried that they were just trying to find a spot for him to get his bat in the lineup. (Remember the embarrassing experiment in Left Field.) The pitchers hardly ever shook off a sign. He seemed to know when to go to the mound to talk to a pitcher. In sum, he handled the catching duties like a person with more experience than he actually has. His age may play a part in that.
            All in all, I think he will be fine behind the plate. That is one of the few things I don’t worry about this year.

        • Wayne Canon says:

          I think Gattis is a solid defensive catcher. Nothing spectacular, but solid with a surprisingly strong arm. (Well, strong everything actually. I don’t see many players being too eager to get past Gattis in order to charge the mound.)
          He strikes me as a plain spoken, blue collar, dirty uniform type of gritty player. I think he’ll end up being one of Atlanta’s famous streaky hitters where he will get on a hot streak and carry the team, then go on a streak where he couldn’t hit a bull’s butt with a snow shovel.
          We need to get two or three of our streaky hitters to have hot streaks at the start of the season to perhaps take some pressure off our pitchers.
          Hope springs eternal.

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