Over the past two years Evan Gattis leads all catchers in home runs. His 32 is four better than the next behind him, former teammate Brian McCann. On top of Gattis leading in home runs, he has fewer plate appearances than any catcher that has even 18 homers. The Braves have been careful with Gattis after he received knee surgery in the offseason and has battled some wrist and sickness issues, so he has seen his plate appearances limited even more than the average catcher so far. Even so, Gattis has provided excess value both in real life and fantasy. To take a quick look at it, Gattis has now played in 147 games with 537 plate appearances and has 32 home runs and 89 RBI, albeit with a .245 average and .294 on base percentage
Now the question is, what should we expect from Gattis going forward in long term leagues?
Gattis is a very particular case because he’s already 27-years-old. With the MLB draft coming up this week, it’s worth noting that good things can come late in the draft, as Gattis and his checkered past got him drafted in the 23rd round back in 2010. His more advanced age makes him a bit less appealing in dynasty leagues, as the second year player certainly doesn’t have a second year player’s age attached with him. Even so, he is one of the top catchers to own in these formats due to him being right in the heart of his peak. Here is an excerpt from Dave Cameron’s piece last fall about catcher aging curves.
“As we can see, peak offensive levels are from 25 to 28, as is pretty commonly accepted, and then there’s a gradual decline as a player gets beyond those years. But notice the trend of the blue line (catchers) compared to all position players (the red line); they move basically in lock-step from 27 to 32, after which point catchers actually age better than the norms for non-catchers.”
One big positive with Gattis is that his defense has been better than expected. It is difficult to judge from numbers as he only has about one full year’s worth of actual playing time at catcher, but he is actually much better defensively than I anticipated. This should give him the ability to A) stick behind the plate for a considerable amount of time and B) fend off defensive wizard and top prospect Christian Bethancourt. Make no mistake, while defense is not a category in almost any fantasy leagues, playing quality enough defense to ensure playing time at a premium position is extremely important. While the Braves have toyed around with using him at first base and left field in the past, that was only to get his bat in the lineup along side McCann, not because they believed his defense was sub-par.
Seeing the general improvements across the board in his first full year as the starter is promising for both the expectations for Gattis this year and in the long term. His average, walk rate, and ISO are all up, and while he will likely always hit for a low BABIP, if his average hovers around the .250 mark he provides a lot more value than I expected before the year. I play in only OBP leagues, and while he is not as attractive in such leagues as those that only look at average, he has seemed significantly more patient since the midway point in April. He got the year off without walking in any of his first 10 games, but has since walked 10 times in his past 32. Those are arbitrary endpoints, but as a follower of the team his approach has been cleaner since the early goings in the season.
I tried to make a trade with fellow RotoGraphs writer Chad Young in a dynasty league we are in and I am regretting not offering a bit more for Gattis. I think it is fair to say that our general perception of what Gattis is has only improved over the first two months of the season, and his value in long term leagues has increased. That does not mean he is unattainable, so if you have a need for power and can upgrade your catcher position, Gattis is a guy worth targeting.
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