Ranking catchers is dumb. There are four or so that matter and then the rest are practically the same. Seriously, there are only four catchers from last year that met the minimum plate appearances to qualify compared to 2016’s eight and 2015 and 2014’s nine. Plate appearances matter in fantasy. You need your players to play often. Get a good catcher that plays regularly and puts up solid stats. You can slot him in and forget until you make the playoffs. After those guys though it’s the Wild West. Take the Dodgers. Yasmani Grandal had 482 PAs last year and had another solid year behind the plate. However, he’s a catcher, can’t DH and has a teammate named Austin Barnes. Barnes would play mostly against lefties but began taking more and more games away from Grandal. They both hit well overall last year, and as it stands now, they could easily split playtime. That isn’t a good sign for either player. The same goes for most other catchers too. They don’t play every day except for the select few. However, there is one that could, and his name is Evan Gattis.
Who wasn’t pumped when Pablo Sandoval migrated from catcher over to third base? A fulltime third baseman in the catcher slot? I’ll take two! Evan Gattis had an interesting season last year playing 49 games behind the plate, 29 at DH and 1 at first. He spent some time on the DL with a concussion and a wrist injury. Despite the injuries, the lack of playing time (his career low) can be contributed to not having a solid spot in the lineup. Brian McCann is usually behind the plate and Carlos Beltran had taken over the DH duties for the majority of the season. Now that Beltran has bowed out of baseball, Gattis’ spot is clear. He’ll be the fulltime DH for the Astros, while letting McCann take a breather at catcher every now and then. A fulltime DH with catcher eligibility should catch your eye.
Having played in only 84 games last year, Gattis did not have a notable year. If his numbers from 2017 were to be expanded closer to a full length season, they are roughly the same as his past but do fall a bit short. Let’s compare last year to his solid 2016 season.
|2016||128||499||32||58||72||2||8.6 %||25.5 %||.257||.273||.251||.319||.508|
|2017||84||325||12||41||55||0||5.5 %||15.4 %||.193||.278||.263||.311||.457|
If you expand 2017 to 499 plate appearances and keep the rates consistent, Gattis would have put up about 18 homers, 63 runs, and 84 RBI. That is not bad but where did his power go?
Gattis’ ISO was below .200 for the first time in his career and his OPS was .767, below his career average. Both of those are concerning, however that could be attributed to his HR/FB rate. It was by the far the lowest it ever has been for him at 11.2%, dropping 13 points from 2016. Most of his other batted ball statistics remained comparable. He did start hitting some more line drives and less grounders, but kept the fly balls the same. Not much change in how hard he’s been hitting the ball either. The decrease in HR/FB while all else constant wasn’t terrible for him though. He ended the season with a career high in doubles. In 84 games he hit 22 doubles which was 2 more than in 2015 where he played in 153. He’s still hitting the ball well. It just wasn’t making it over the fence. His low home run total from 2017 shouldn’t worry you much at all. Expect an increase in HR/FB, less doubles, more homers, and not much else to change.
Outside of his drop in homeruns, Gattis saw a sharp decline in strikeouts. Only striking out 15.4% of the time, 2017 was by far the lowest strikeout rate of his career. His contact rates point in the same direction.
|2013||71.9 %||82.8 %||77.8 %|
|2014||62.4 %||82.1 %||73.2 %|
|2015||66.8 %||84.6 %||77.0 %|
|2016||63.3 %||83.3 %||75.0 %|
|2017||67.1 %||88.3 %||79.6 %|
He made more contact across the board. Most notably his zone contact rate jumped to 88.3%. Nothing wrong with more contact and more balls in play.
A full season of Gattis’ 2017 would put him in the top 5 for runs and RBI and top 10 for HRs. He holds his own with batting average too. A healthy 2018 mostly in the DH spot should give Gattis plenty of opportunities. His homerun rate should increase back to normal pushing him back to the mid-20s. Don’t forget he’ll be hitting in one of the best offensive lineups around. Should he get 500 PAs (barring injury or sucking, he should) he’ll be a top 5 fantasy catcher in 2018 putting up something like 63/25/83/.260.