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  1. Isn’t it common for catchers to develop slower than other positional players?

    Comment by cnote66 — April 11, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

  2. As a Braves fan, Gattis has been the ultimate divider between saber nerds who don’t want to get ahead of themselves, and fanboys who are yelling to trade Mccann. Personally I could see him becoming a V-Mart type hitter, but wouldn’t be surprised if he’s just a serviceable backup.

    Comment by fast at last — April 11, 2013 @ 5:16 pm

  3. Normally there are good baseball reasons for why a 26 year old is getting a first shot in the big leagues. But with Gattis, the reason is a weird off-the-wall that has little to do with baseball skills/ability. So he’s already an outlier when you try to find comparables that way.

    What would it look like if you put a guy with major league skills an a prison cell for his 18-22 year old seasons, and then let him loose on the low minors? You would expect an average hitter to do well, and a guy who ultimately becomes an above average hitter to rake at levels below AA. Well, Gattis did that. It doesn’t tell me anything about his ability to successfully hit MLB caliber pitching, but it also offers no evidence that he can’t do it.

    Most guys who can’t hit MLB pitching have given plenty of indications that they can’t do it by 26.

    Comment by Dan — April 11, 2013 @ 5:54 pm

  4. The thing that impresses me the most about Gattis is how quickly the ball seems to jump off his bat. I’m guardedly optimistic thus far, and for the team it’s a nice problem to have.

    Comment by The Ted, Section 437 — April 11, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

  5. The more interesting comparables are guys like Ron LeFlore and Hamilton, who for personal reasons, were away from the game for over 2 years during what are the key formative years for young prospects.

    Another similar group would be young prospects who had to delay their development while serving in the military. I’m not talking about guys like Ted Williams who was already an established major leaguer, but rather someone like Gil Hodges who played briefly in the major in 1943, then spent over two years away from the game. It would be interesting to look a list of top hitting prospects age 19 or 20 who had their development interrupted like that by military service.

    The Gil Hodges precedent obviously is a very positive one for Gattis. But there are undoubtedly others in similar situations who never made it. The key question is how much that kind of detour affected the career paths of that group compared to a similar group of prospects who did not have that kind of detour.

    Comment by nsacpi — April 11, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

  6. Gattis is a beast.

    Comment by Nate — April 11, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

  7. Lo Duca didn’t have a fluky power spike, he was a steroids guy.

    Comment by ataraxia_ — April 11, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

  8. Re: Lo Duca

    “Fluky power spike”, indeed.

    Comment by atoms — April 11, 2013 @ 8:11 pm

  9. exactly. this is what i wrote back in february in a comment on a braves blog that was going on and on about age relative to league…

    the point is – as you correctly point out in another comment, gattis has never succeeded against players his own age. but he’s never failed against players his own age, either.

    most guys who are still in AA at 26 are still there because they’ve failed to hit their way out of the minors faster than that. which is generally a bad sign for their ability. that’s not true of gattis. he’s hit like a bastard every time he’s been on the field. he just hasn’t been on the field very much yet. maybe he’s just this good? there’s very little evidence to the contrary.

    the thought experiment – and i saw someone else already do this upthread and immediately get yelled at for comparing gattis to pujols, so let me just say up front, that’s not what i’m doing.

    but, think of it this way. if albert pujols drifted ashore in miami on one of those cuban studebaker rafts at age 26, walked up the beach into a minor league stadium and started to hit, how would you know it was him? he’d tear the cover off the ball, no doubt. but he’d be really old for the league…

    the minor league age curve is a really important analytical guideline. but all rules have exceptions.

    i’m just curious how, specifically, people think pitchers are going to get gattis out. he has massive power and also doesn’t strike out very much. that’s a rare and good profile. people keep saying he won’t amount to anything, but they never go into ANY detail about why that is OTHER than the fact that he’s so old, end of line.

    on twitter the other day i saw a picture of gattis at age 14 or 15 with the USA development team. i’m not totally sure what that team is or how it’s put together, but some of the other guys in the picture (out of about 15 dudes total) were justin upton, billy butler, homer bailey and austin jackson. so there *was* a time when gattis got put into that kind of company via some sort of scouting process, back when he was the same age as everyone else.

    Comment by wily mo — April 11, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

  10. Many of the baseball players who signed up for service or were drafted actually got placed on military bases playing baseball against other great players. In some cases this helped their development. Ted Williams went to war and fought but even he between air missions spent a lot of time fine tuning his game against high caliber major league talent.

    Comment by Spit Ball — April 11, 2013 @ 9:50 pm

  11. Greg Olson was FAR from doomed by his offense. He was a fan favorite, an All-Star, and a great backstop who helped to groom the young trio of Glavine, Smoltz, and Steve Avery into 3/4 of a rotation that led us past the veteran-laden Pirates and 7 games deep against the Twins in the most exciting World Series of all-time. (You have to remember, this was pre-Piazza, when any offense you got from your catcher was a bonus, and you could handle getting none, as long as he was doing his job behind the plate.)

    Whether or not he’d have ever been able to keep his career going without picking up on the offensive side is something we’ll never know… thanks to Ken Caminiti… no friend to Braves fans…

    Comment by BravesFan — April 11, 2013 @ 10:01 pm

  12. Yes, but this has as much to do with defense as anything else. Lots more to learn when you’re not only defending your position, but calling a pitcher’s game, too.

    Comment by MichaelProcton — April 12, 2013 @ 2:39 am

  13. Yeah man, Lo Duca took time-release ‘roids, and they only worked for one season. How could you not mention that in the article?

    Comment by Drew — April 12, 2013 @ 7:56 am

  14. Yeah. Anyone who points out that a 25 year-old mashing on High-A pitching isn’t that special is branded a “hater” now, apparently.

    I’m glad Gattis is off to a good start, but I can’t imagine he’ll keep it up. Hopefully it lasts until Mac is back, though.

    Comment by a5ehren — April 12, 2013 @ 9:40 am

  15. The competition he’s been up against in the low minors is a bunch of 20 year-olds who throw 95 and can’t locate it. Few of them have good breaking balls or changeups, and fewer still have the command to put it in good locations.

    CAC had a good article yesterday showing a heatmap of the pitches Gattis has seen thus far. He’s seen a lot of fastballs over the plate because pitchers are arrogantly trying to challenge him. If you compare his map to Heyward or Freeman, you notice a distinct lack of low-and-away pitches on Gattis’s chart.

    The way they’re probably going to start getting him out is by throwing breaking balls near the corners and fastballs off the plate. It’ll be up to Gattis to adjust to that.

    Comment by a5ehren — April 12, 2013 @ 9:45 am

  16. CAC is, in fact, the braves blog i posted this comment on back in february. saw the heatmap article, too. it’s quite true that hitters coming up from the minors can tend to have a honeymoon period where they’re challenged and then a slump as they get booked and have to adjust. that’s true for literally everyone, though, and i don’t think it has much to do with what i’m talking about.

    (note that i’m not arguing that gattis’ hot first two weeks “proves” that he’s a stud, although i freely admit that i do intuitively suspect that he is. to me the situation now is more or less the same as it was in february.)

    Comment by wily mo — April 12, 2013 @ 4:09 pm

  17. Prior to his 1992 injury, Olson hit .247/.321/.350, a .305 wOBA and 85 wRC+. In 1993, he hit .225/.304/.309 with a .284 wOBA and 67 wRC+. He was just a bad hitter, and Javy Lopez was a rookie in 1994. The pitchers may have liked him for his gamecalling skills, but Olson was just a placeholder.

    Comment by Alex Remington — April 14, 2013 @ 11:17 pm

  18. This is a great point, and I’d love to see a piece on players who spent time away from the game for non-injury reasons.

    Comment by Alex Remington — April 14, 2013 @ 11:18 pm

  19. Of course, if he can look credible behind the plate, then he could have a 10-year career even if he never learns how to hit a breaking ball. The standards for backup catchers are relatively low.

    Comment by Alex Remington — April 14, 2013 @ 11:19 pm

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