30 Players in 30 Days: Evan Gattis
Evan Gattis made his major-league debut with the Atlanta Braves in 2013 and hit 21 home runs in 105 games while splitting time between catcher and left field. In 2014, Gattis spent the bulk of the season as the Braves’ starting catcher, and he hit 22 home runs in 108 games but dealt with back injuries. Gattis joined the Houston Astros on January 14, 2015, along with James Hoyt from the Braves in exchange for Rio Ruiz, Andrew Thurman, and Mike Foltynewicz.
The Astros game plan for Gattis was to use him as their primary designated hitter and not a catcher unless an emergency called for it. The move worked out as Gattis stayed relatively as healthy as one can in a 162-game season. Gattis played in 153 games in 2015 – 45 more than he did in 2014, and he also appeared in 11 games in left field, primarily against NL teams.
Gattis’ debut with the Astros was, to put it kindly, rough. He started the season by going 0-for-3 on Opening Day. In his second game, he followed up with a 0-for-4 performance with all four outs coming via strikeout. In the third game of the season, he had an identical showing and was even booed by a few fans in Houston. Gattis would go hitless in his next two games to bring his total to start the season at 0-for-20, not what you expect from the guy that’s on your team almost strictly as a hitter. The streak would extend to 23 at-bats before Gattis finally came through with a single to left field to get on the hit board.
Gattis finished the month of April batting .164/.197/.288, but cut down his strikeouts toward the end of the month. The beginning of May was like turning over a page for Gattis. He began the month with five hits, three home runs, and eight RBIs in his first three games. The power surge continued through the month and he finished with nine home runs, 22 RBIs and slashed .276/.304/.629 – numbers more in line with what Astros fans expected. By the All-Star break, Gattis had 15 home runs, 54 RBIs, and a .268 OBP.
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The triples machine
A little anecdote about Gattis’ 2015 season was his triples. Coming into the 2015 season, Gattis had 723 major-league at-bats and one triple. Gattis would finish tied for third in all of baseball with 11 triples in 2015, not what you would expect from a 6’4″, 260+ pound guy that looks more like an NFL defensive lineman.
The easy explanation would be to say that Minute Maid Park plays perfectly for Gattis’ power as he can hit it into the depths of center field, and he did. The surprising part is the five that came away from home for Gattis.
A tale of two halves
Gattis improved his OBP by nearly 40 points in the second half (.307), while not the most impressive number, it was still a trend in the right direction. His batting average over the second half was also 10 points higher despite his BAbip going down by 12 points. What does that mean? It means that his (.252) batting average in the second half is slightly deceiving and should be a little higher.
Sometimes an eye test will tell you a guy is unreliable as an RBI hitter, but the numbers will tell you differently. With runners on third and less than two outs, Gattis hit .394/.375/.788 with 23 RBIs. The bad part? He had 22 strikeouts over 96 such at-bats, which means that while he was productive getting hits, he was also unproductive when it came to making a “good” out to score a runner by making contact.
In the postseason, Gattis struggled to get anything going and only had four hits, six strikeouts and only one RBI in 23 at-bats. It was a stark contrast from his first postseason experience in 2013 when he had five hits in 14 at-bats.
Gattis finished with the team lead in home runs (27), RBIs (88), triples (11), and second in hits (139), but only a 0.5 WAR.
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- Jon Singleton
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- Jake Marisnick
- Pat Neshek
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What to expect in 2016
Gattis can hit the ball a long way. A really, really long way. He struggled to get the job done at times in 2015, but he settled in with the team after a rough start in April. Gattis is arbitration eligible in 2016 and, according to MLBTradeRumors.com, is projected to make about $3.4 million – not bad for a guy that can slug over 30 home runs.
As a designated hitter, he needs to improve his plate discipline (30 BB in 604 plate appearances) because a .285 OBP from a middle of the line-up guy will not get the job done.
Expect Gattis to do better things in 2016. Yes, he can be a frustrating player to watch at times, but it’s what you come to expect from this Astros team.