The Atlanta Braves announced today that prospect Evan Gattis earned a spot on the 25-man roster and will be with the team on Opening Day. We've been tracking Gattis closely this spring. I originally wrote about him a month ago (Evan Gattis Impresses Braves Brass, February 25) after Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said positive things about how Gattis looked in early workouts.
Since then, Gattis has clobbered spring training pitching, hitting .357/.383/.768 with five doubles and six homers in 56 at-bats.
So, what can we expect for the regular season?
There is no doubt in my mind that the power is real, and given the unusual background detailed in the February article (he essentially didn't play baseball for three years), his progress has been pretty remarkable. Some evaluators discount him due to his age (he's 26 and has no experience in Triple-A). That's understandable and no one is going to mistake Gattis for a toolsy youngster.
However, there are some positive precedents: Josh Willingham was a 27-year-old rookie and has turned into an excellent slugger. Brian Giles was one of the most productive players of his generation and didn't get any playing time until he was 26. Being an old prospect doesn't mean you are destined to suck.
There are also some reasons to be cautious in our expectations. Gattis ripped the ball this spring, but he also posted a 1/13 BB/K ratio, which is pretty awful.
ZIPS projects Gattis as a .247/.305/.453 hitter in the majors this year, which strikes me as a sober and reasonable projection. Overall, I will stick with my assessment of Gattis from the pre-season:
Even if he hits .240, though, he's got enough thunder in the bat to be useful. . .With the right team, he could play some games in the outfield and DH, do some emergency catching occasionally, and rack up 300 at-bats while producing solid power numbers.
He could very well exceed that. He's a fun guy to root for, a great follow for Braves fans, and an intriguing (if risky) fantasy investment.