Astros Spring Training: Where to Play Evan Gattis


Now that Astros spring training has officially begun, so have the daily interviews by Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. Some of Hinch’s comments have hinted that Evan Gattis role with the 2015 Astros is not yet set.

After the Astros traded for Evan Gattis, it was assumed that he would be the Astros everyday left fielder. However, this hypothesis may not come true with some of the comments from the past few days. Could Hinch’s comments be something that is designed to fuel competition? This post will look into these comments, and what the desired outcome could be.

Gattis the outfielder?

From Brian McTaggart’s article Astros want Gattis to focus on outfield early in camp:

“I’d like to get him acclimated to one position, get him some reps with [outfield instructor] Gary Pettis,” Hinch said. “We’ll work first base into it eventually. Initially, early in camp, I’d like him to focus on getting more comfortable in the outfield.”

Hinch’s comment here appears to justify most people’s beliefs that Gattis will start in left field. He played 48 games there in 2013 with the Braves, when Brian McCann came back from injury. Gattis started 47 of those 48 games in left field. His fielding percentage was .943 with 63 put outs in 70 defensive chances.

Gattis had an alarming stat from his time in the outfield, even though he started 47 games in left, he only had 16 complete games as an outfielder. This will remind Astros fans of Carlos Lee, who was removed for defensive purposes almost every game. The plus side of Minute Maid Park, is that left field is a relatively small space to cover.

Unless Gattis proves to be a liability in left field, that will probably be his position. The Astros are starting with the position that he has had the most experience at, and then will work him into some first base experience. Why would they put Gattis at first when they have Jon Singleton and Chris Carter?  

Gattis the first baseman?

Jon Singleton is coming off a disappointing rookie year in 2014. Singleton did offer power by hitting 13 home runs, but only batted .168 with the Astros. Singleton was ranked the top first base prospect for a while, so some people were shocked that he struggled so much. If the Astros really don’t like Chris Carter’s defense, Gattis may be pan “B” if Singleton struggles in spring training.

Many catchers have transitioned into first base roles in effort to increase playing time. Some examples are Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, and Wilin Rosario just to name a few. In his major league career, Gattis has only played four games at first base.

Gattis the designated hitter?

If Chris Carter is ever traded or not re-signed, I think Gattis is the Astros designated hitter for a while. But for now the Astros believe that Gattis will be more adequate defensively than Carter. If Gattis does flop defensively, he could take over the designated hitter duties from Carter.

The Jake Effect

The second quote came from Jeff Luhnow on MLB Network Radio.

Jake Marisnick will probably never tell anyone this, but I bet he has had a roller coaster of an offseason. Following the conclusion of the 2014 season, Marisnick appeared to have left field locked with his solid play both offensively and defensively. 

Then the Astros traded for Evan Gattis, to be a fly in Marisnick’s house when he heard the Astros traded for Gattis to play left field. Did he have an Office Space moment by unscrewing his cubical, and gutting a fish on his desk?

Then the Astros traded Dexter Fowler to the Cubs. Do you think maybe Marisnick broke out the expensive wine that night in celebration? The following day he was probably making weapons out of beer bottles when he heard that the Astros signed Colby Rasmus. If Marisnick is feeling bad, how do you think L.J. Hoes, Robbie Grossman, and Alex Presley feel right about now? I can see them counting on their fingers trying to do the math.

If Marisnick wins the center field job, George Springer is in right field, and Rasmus is in left field. Gattis would then play first, while Carter becomes the designated hitter. If anything, the Astros brass have created some excitement for spring training where there will be real competition at every position, except second base and right field. I wish the games were tomorrow, because we need some updated pictures of the new Astros in Houston uniforms.

Would that be a “bold” move that you would support?

Next: The Tale of El Oso Blanco

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