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Royals Offseason Target: Evan Gattis

A profiling of Braves Catcher/Outfielder/DH and former janitor Evan Gattis

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

So, the sell of may have begun. Monday the Braves traded away homestate legend Jason Heyward to the Cardinals for Shelby Miller and Tyrel Jenkins. Not an impressive haul for a player projected to be worth 5-wins in 2015, but factoring in the one year left on Heyward's team control it's doable.

Later that afternoon, Zach Klein (sources!!!) tweeted:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>MLB source - This is just the beginning. Only players safe are top-3 pitchers, Kimbrel, Freddie and Simmons&quot;</p>&mdash; Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) <a href="">November 17, 2014</a></blockquote>

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So somebody somewhere, likely two people (Klein and his source) think that the Braves are going to be selling off major league assets to facilitate a rebuild. An emphasis on a rebuild rather than reload. The braves surprise me slightly by entering this potential sell off mode. They've got three players projected to be worth 4-5 wins next year in Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, and Heyward, and two players projected for ~3 wins in Justin Upton and Evan Gattis. That's roughly 17 or so wins comprised by just 5 players. With some rotation upgrades, they should be legitimate contenders for the NL East and NL Wild Card, but if they want to rebuild then one teams trash is another teams treasure kinda.

I profiled Gattis as a trade target for the Royals this past August, and most those sentiments remain the same.

What we can look a little deeper into his his final stat line for the season, projections, and a little more? At least the first two are going to happen.

Gattis rounded out his season hitting .263/.317/.493 with 22 home runs and a 125 wRC+. Combined with his below average defense and baserunning, Gattis was worth 2.3 wins last year.

Steamer projects a better Evan Gattis this upcoming season though not by any remarkable improvement:

2014 27 108 401 22 5.5% 24.2% 0.230 0.263 0.317 0.493 125 -6.6 -2.1 2.3
2015 28 140 585 27 5.7% 22.1% 0.270 0.243 0.295 0.444 105 -4.0 -0.7 2.9

Gattis' improvement is essentially based of an extra 32 games and 5 home runs with some slight regression in fielding and baserunning. Unfortunately the overall hitting line is projected to drop 20%, but a 105 wRC+ for a catcher would be roughly 10% better than average. Also unfortunately, Gattis shouldn't be allowed a lot of time behind the plate. If you were to move him to left field then he's roughly an average hitter for a left fielder.

Gattis isn't dethroning Alex Gordon from left field so if he were to be a Royal he would instead play in right field. An added bonus if that Gattis could also spell Sal Perez from behind the plate and has the potential power to DH for the Royals. With the DH penalty, Gattis will need to play the field to be a worthwhile everyday hitter.

While being above league average against both handed pitchers, Gattis is better against opposite handed hitters given his 138 wRC+ vs lefties and 111 wRC+ vs righties.

One specific note about Gattis is his lack of plate discipline. While his projected strikeout rates are only slightly higher than the league average K%, Gattis chases a very large amount of pitches. 8th most in baseball technically (minimum of 400 PA's)

2014 O-Swing Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% SwStrk%
Gattis 41.7% 70.4% 53.8% 62.7% 82.1% 73.4% 13.9%
League Average 31.3% 65.6% 46.7% 65.9% 87.3% 79.4% 9.40

Name Team O-Swing% O-Contact% K%
Pablo Sandoval Giants 48.10% 79.80% 13.30%
Salvador Perez Royals 46.20% 77.20% 14.00%
Chris Johnson Braves 44.30% 51.60% 26.00%
Marlon Byrd Phillies 43.10% 55.90% 29.00%
Juan Uribe Dodgers 43.00% 62.00% 19.10%
Matt Adams Cardinals 42.20% 69.00% 20.20%
Adam Jones Orioles 42.10% 63.00% 19.50%
Evan Gattis Braves 41.70% 62.70% 24.20%
Jose Abreu White Sox 41.60% 59.30% 21.10%

Overall, a 3 win player is a nice asset to have, but you've got to penalize Gattis for at least right field and possibly as a DH as well.

Here's an almost all encompassing list of players who received significant time at DH from 2005-2014 and had a wRC+ between 100 and 110, within the subjective realm of variance for the Steamer wRC+ line projected for Gattis.

Player Year wRC+ fWAR
Johnny Damon 2007 100 2.5
Johnny Damon 2010 107 2.3
Josh Hamilton 2013 105 2.0
Dmitri Young 2005 109 1.4
Ryan Doumit 2012 109 1.3
Johnny Damon 2011 108 1.2
Aubrey Huff 2007 103 0.9
Jack Cust 2009 108 0.6
Justin Morneau 2012 107 0.2
Shin-Soo Choo 2014 100 0.2
Bobby Abreu 2011 104 0.1
David Ortiz 2009 100 0.0
Adam Dunn 2013 105 -0.2
Jason Kubel 2010 101 -0.5

From that list we can essentially eliminate names like Damon, Choo, and David Ortiz. Damon and Choo bring others skills to baseball other than power while David Ortiz is generally a very good hitter even for a DH.

The above list doesn't represent an exactly glowing list of players you'd want to compare your potential trade target to normally, but Gattis does bring positional flexibility and an above average major league bat, especially against left handed pitchers.

With the Braves supposedly entering some version of sell mode, it likely won't require the Royals to pry Gattis away from the Braves. Couple that with Gattis likely losing some value due to his switch to the outfield or DH and the asking price isn't likely too high for him to be in Royal blue.

Gattis isn't arbitration eligible until after next season and carries team control until after the 2018 season. For at least the next season he's likely to prevent surplus value, and given his likely low-projected arbitration raises, retaining him as a reserve if his production were to decline wouldn't be costly.