Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Now In Houston, How Should Evan Gattis Be Valued?

by Ray Kuhn

Power… Evan Gattis has it, and that fact cannot be questioned.  In 369 at bats last season he hit 22 home runs. Letting the mind wonder to what he can do with more at bats could potentially be a dangerous thing.  Are 35-40 home runs possible?

Of course it is possible, as baseball has taught us to sometimes expect the unexpected. It would not surprise me to see Gattis to end the season among the home run leaders, but I wouldn’t count on it nor pay for it on draft day.

The move to the American League and also from out behind the plate is a very positive development. Now Gattis’ defensive responsibilities will be limited to first base and a very shallow left field, with designated hitter also a distinct possibility. What is even better is that he will retain his eligibility at catcher for 2015, despite not being expected to man the position.

The issue so far in his career has been staying healthy. After playing 105 games in 2013 he appeared in 108 games last season. Based on the factors outlined above, 500 at bats is a reasonable expectation and that leads us to a crude projection of 30 home runs.

I just took Gattis’ HR/AB rate of 6% from last season and translated it to 500 at bats. Is it really that easy?

In looking at his performance over the past two season, that is something I am comfortable with. Last season the margin in home runs, 1.173 per game and 1.122 per game, were not all too different but the short left field porch in Houston cannot be ignored as it certainly works to Gattis’ advantage.

Another reason why I am comfortable with expecting 30 HR is because I believe in his power and his advanced metrics. In his two big league seasons 17% and 18% of his fly balls turned into home runs and his Power Index (per Baseball HQ)  has been equally consistent at 163 (100 is average) in each of his two seasons.

One area where I wouldn’t be surprised to see some regression is in Gattis’ batting average. He hit .243 in 2013 and .263 last season even though his contact% went from 77% to  74%. his hit percentage did increase to 30% from 26% the year before and his Hard Contact Index (per Baseball HQ) also rose from 115 to 123, which is a positive development. So maybe his batting average does dip a few points, but I wouldn’t expect to see it below .250.

Regardless of what position you use Gattis in, he will be a very good power option though his RBI will be dependent upon where Houston bats him. I would enter the season with Gattis penciled in for .255/30/80, which makes him a starting catcher in all formats.

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