The Astros’ Evan Gattis to Double-A to Focus on Catching
The title says it all, after weeks of when and will Evan Gattis get behind the plate for the Houston Astros in 2016, and they finally make a decision. Gattis will report to the Corpus Christi Hooks, not because he needs to rehab to return from an injury, but instead he needs to regain his catching legs. Before I get into Gattis’ move, I wanted to take a second and discuss the roster implications of this move now and shortly.
Max Stassi has just returned to playing baseball following his fractured hamate bone this spring training. Stassi returned to the Fresno to rehab Wednesday, going o-3 in his return to baseball action. He sat on the bench during Thursday’s contest, but was in the starting lineup last night and went 2-3 with an RBI. I used a word earlier, rehab, to describe Stassi’s return.
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What if this Gattis move means that Stassi is not really there for rehab, but instead, will get regular playing time for the Fresno Grizzlies. Should Gattis master catching, I think the Astros will be confident in carrying Gattis as the backup catcher until his offensive presence returns to the Astros designated hitter. This means that there will be no room on the roster for Stassi, but instead, the Astros would probably call up one of their top hitting prospects.
While Gattis might still get some time at designated hitter, it will limit A.J. Hinch‘s ability to use him later in the game. Unless Gattis takes the time, this time, to get ready for MLB pitching, he is no longer an everyday player. He is no longer guaranteed everyday at-bats until his bat wakes up, but should he return from Double-A hot, he could change the Astros plan. A Gattis at the top of his game can carry a team, but one that is struggling can add to the woes of the streaky hitters.
With Gattis’ start to the 2016 season, it is easier to justify him carrying him as the backup catcher versus a designated hitter who just isn’t performing like he should. Erik Kratz is a smart guy, and he can see the writing on the wall with this move. The Astros appear not to be confident with Kratz or Stassi with this move. Kratz has started off the 2016 season batting 0.048 while slugging a robust 0.139. His lone hit was a bunt, so the Astros will probably DFA Kratz when Gattis returns.
I spoke with someone with the Astros that said that it was only a matter of time that Gattis would start catching because he spends so much time pregame behind the plate. While he does have experience with the Braves as the backup catcher, the reviews are not overly positive on him. Gattis has this opportunity to start fresh not only as a catcher but also as a hitter.
Should the Astros not be able to retain Jason Castro this offseason, Gattis could develop as an everyday catcher for the Astros. They traded their best catching prospect last year in Jacob Nottingham, and there are a few catchers in the minors who profile more as backup catchers. Unless the Astros go on a hot winning streak, I don’t think the Astros should trade for Jonathan Lucroy this year.
Good luck to Gattis as he transforms back into a backup catcher, I might try to make it down to Corpus next weekend to watch him catch. This could be a difference make because it would open a roster spot for Matt Duffy, Colin Moran, or A.J. Reed to join the club. The Astros have a problem, and catcher could be shaping up, the next position of focus would be third base. Fantasy owners, you need to remove Gattis from your active lineup for the next 10 days.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***