The Braves continued their rebuild on Wednesday, sending Evan Gattis to the Astros for a three-prospect package, highlighted by right-handed starter Mike Foltynewicz. It’s the Astros perspective that concerns us here, with Gattis becoming a very intriguing player in fantasy leagues by moving west.
Gattis already ranks among the better, more consistent right-handed power hitters in the majors. Through 213 career games and 783 plate appearances, Gattis has 43 homers, a .487 slugging percentage and .234 isolated slugging percentage. He has a career 44.5-percent fly-ball rate and 17.6-percent HR/FB ratio. In short, Gattis hits a lot of fly balls, and those fly balls leave the yard at a rate that is significantly above average.
Even Gattis’ fly balls that don’t sail over the fences typically have a good deal of flight. His average fly ball distance last season was 300.63 feet, which ranked 11th in the league. That was an increase from 293.11 feet in 2013, which was still much farther than league average. When Gattis puts the ball in the air, it’s going to travel a good distance. That could mean plenty of cheap homers when your home park is just 315 feet deep down the left-field line.
Turner Field doesn’t necessarily do much for right-handed power. In fact, while Gattis’ slugging percentage was 15 points higher at Turner in the last two seasons, he had three more homers on the road. Gattis isn’t going to lose anything by waving goodbye to Atlanta as his home city, especially when you consider that his new home is just about his beau ideal.
Minute Maid Park has long been one of the best stadiums in the majors for right-handed power hitters dating back to its days as Enron Field. Gattis should have no problem taking full advantage. Below is Gattis’ home-run chart from 2014 with an overlay of Minute Maid Park.
Forget about the friendly Crawford Boxes. A number of those balls would have threatened the train deep in left field. Minute Maid was tailor made for righties with prodigious power who pull the ball as frequently as Gattis does. Of course, the above chart only includes Gattis’ home runs. The following, courtesy of Brooks Baseball, shows all of Gattis’ balls in play over the last two seasons. The red dots are homers and the black dots are outs. Pay particular attention to the latter in deep left field.
If that doesn’t drive home how great Minute Maid should be for Gattis, here’s one more spray chart. This one shows batted-ball types for Gattis over the last two seasons. The blue dots are fly balls.
Gattis was already going to be one of the better fantasy catchers, thanks to the pop in his bat. So long as the Astros don’t turn around and trade Jason Castro for prospects, Gattis will be spending much less time behind the plate than he has in his first two years in the league. He hasn’t played more than 108 games in either of those seasons, but he should breeze past that number if he’s primarily playing left field in 2015. Steamer projects him to hit 26 homers, and that feels like a safe number. The batting average and OBP may not be pretty, but Gattis should easily hit somewhere between 25 and 30 homers and turn a profit in RBI, as well. Gattis is the No. 5 catcher on my board, and given average draft position, you could make a case for him as being the best catcher to target in drafts this season.