News broke in the afternoon about Evan Gattis being in Houston for a physical and by late in the evening it was confirmed that he indeed was being traded by Atlanta. The Braves will receive three more prospects as they continue an interesting offseason combined with stockpiling minor leaguers and signing veteran stopgaps for the upcoming season. As will be profiled, the big winner here in fantasy terms is Evan Gattis taking his powerful swing to the short left field fence in Minute Maid Park where he will take aim on the railroad tracks. On the other end of the spectrum is Freddie Freeman whose protection has been traded to San Diego (Justin Upton) and now Evan Gattis to Houston. It will be hard to project any improvement over last year’s stats for Freddie now that the Braves are in a complete rebuild and he will not be pitched to in any big situation this season.
But this is geared to look at how Evan Gattis can fare in Houston, so I will start by letting you know that the average distance of his fly balls hit last year traveled on average 300.63 feet which ranked him eleventh in the major leagues, two spots ahead of former teammate Justin Upton. Using ESPN’s home run tracker, I made the following overlay showing what his 2014 home runs would look like in Minute Maid Park here:
Observing the overlay is nice but here is a picture of Minute Maid with the dimensions displayed with the distances of the fences along with the knowledge of how far an average fly ball by Gattis travels:
It also helps to take note of where Evan Gattis hits the ball. According the chart courtesy of MLBFarm.com, it is pretty clear that Gattis is a pull hitter:
So we can see that if and when Gattis puts the ball into play, he will have a chance to hit home runs. While the move to Houston does help his fantasy prospects for 2015, what effect will it have upon his draft or auction status? In last week’s published money NFBC drafts, Gattis was the seventh catcher drafted with an average ADP of 124.31 going one pick after Salvador Perez and one before Yadier Molina. I can see a case being made to move Gattis up to the top five in catcher rankings and I would have a hard time taking Brian McCann ahead of him. Over the past two seasons Gattis has hit 43 home runs in 213 games played. That ties him with McCann for second for catchers over this time frame and the only player they trail is Carlos Santana who will not have catcher eligibility in leagues with a 20 game minimum.
Even if Gattis maintains his 16.8 HR/AB ratio his projections have to rise in Houston. However, this is a matter of health. Last year he only played in 108 games but if he can adjust to some left field and get some at bats at designated hitter, Gattis should eclipse that number. For projections, it will be all about the at bats. With simple extrapolation 400 at bats would equate to 24 home runs, 450 to 27 and 500 to 30, but this ignores the ballpark effects. According to Fangraphs.com’s ball park effects numbers Atlanta rates as a 99 for home runs and 97 for right handed hitters. But Houston jumps to 105 for home runs and 104 for right handed batters. The ballpark alone should account for about two more home runs per jump in at bats which could move Gattis projections to 26 for 400 at bats, 29 in 450 and 32 if he could get 500 in 2015. These may be on the aggressive side of projecting but if you are paying for 24 home runs and he hits 32 then profit is generated.
It will be interesting to see if his move has any real effect on his ADP in tonight’s FSTA draft which is the first one that gives insight to how experts value players. I venture to say he will jump into the top five drafted and with people worried about Devin Mesoraco’s regression this year, Gattis could be, dare I say a top three option at his position. Here are some of his early projections:
If you are in a league that uses on base percentage, then some of Evan Gattis’ value is taken away but at a time when power hitters are in high demand, this is a relative inexpensive chance today at one. With health he and Matt Wieters are relative sleepers at this point according to ADP’s. What is nice about his projections, they sort of represent the three scenarios that Gattis could provide. CBS shows a possible peak, Steamer is where I can see him getting realistically and ZiPS shows the worst case scenario. Personally I will buy Gattis for the Steamer projection but if he jumps his home run totals into the 30-32 range, it would not be a surprise.
It would appear that the Braves were dead set upon restocking the farm system this off-season. By moving Gattis, this cements the plan and the Braves did receive three more prospects acquiring Mike Foltynewicz, Rio Ruiz and Andrew Thurman. According to MiLB.com Foltynewicz moves into the second slot for Braves prospects and Rio Ruiz to number six so netting two top ten minor leaguers for a power hitter may be enough in return. Houston does have third baseman prospects still in the system so Ruiz was a player they could afford to part ways with. For fantasy purposes, Mike Foltynewicz is the most likely to appear in 2015 so I will focus on his move to Atlanta.
Moving to a better pitcher’s ballpark and the National League has to improve Foltynewicz’s fantasy stock going forward. He has a blazing fastball along with a curve and changeup as can be seen in the chart below thanks to BrooksBaseball.net:
My concern about him is can he throw enough strikes to remain a starting pitcher? The talent is there, but his career WHIP of 1.4 in the minor leagues is concerning and frustrating. Foltynewicz was able to strike out ten hitters in a game but his 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio in AAA last year is cause for concern. I can see two outcomes with Folty moving forward: a viable number four starting pitcher for the Braves or their eventual replacement for Craig Kimbrel at closer if they trade him. But the latest tweet by their beat writer Mark Bowman is a head scratcher to me:
I do not see how this Braves team as presently built can compete in 2015. As much as I like Freddie Freeman, Alex Wood, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel, that is not enough to make the Braves a playoff contender. Jim Callis likes how the Braves have rebuilt their farm system:
So why not continue doing that and build for 2016. Signing Nick Markakis and A.J. Pierzynski is not enough to replace the losses of Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis. I think the A’s last year showed that pitching is not enough to win a playoff series or one game play in. A team needs balance and not only does the Braves lack it, there is room for much improvement.
Baseball-Reference.com, ESPN.go.com Hit Tracker, Fangraphs.com, Steamer Projections, CBSsports.com, BrooksBaseball.net
Evan Gattis pic: http://www.foxsports.com/content/dam/fsdigital/RSN/South/2014/2/14/PI-MLB-Atlanta-Braves-Evan-Gattis-021414.jpg
Greg Jewett is the senior fantasy writer for the Sports Script and you can follow him on Twitter @gjewett9