Owning Evan Gattis

I have to admit that when I saw the most recent catcher rankings from the legendary RotoGraphs Four, I was a bit taken aback when I saw Evan Gattis ranked as the 16th best catcher, residing above the likes of players such as J.P . Arencibia, A.J. Ellis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Sure, his first month and a half of the season as an everyday player was an exciting, feel-good story — going from janitor contemplating suicide to heroic major league cult icon — but with both Brian McCann and Jason Heyward returning to the lineup, he was headed for more of a reserve role. To me, these rankings put far too much weight on past performance than expected production moving forward. Gattis was a great early-season novelty, but the knowledgeable fantasy owner was well aware that his time was up.

As a Gattis owner anticipating his reduced role,  I was thrilled that he provided me with one last home run before he headed to my bench this week. After all, what was he going to do for me in such a limited role? Surely my regular backstop, Miguel Montero, would start to turn his season around and provide me with more productive numbers moving forward, right? Well, with two Gattis home runs and five RBI wasted on my bench compared to the one RBI I’ve received from Montero, I’m starting to wonder if I can actually get away with using the Braves’ part-timer on a regular basis and still come out ahead stats-wise. Who knows how long it will take Montero to pull himself out of this slump while Gattis continues to rake.

But while this week gives me an unequivocal yes to my question, the sensible owner in me understands that benching Gattis is probably the right move going forward. Sure, his ZiPS ROS projections say 14 home runs and 43 RBI, but are we really looking at another 293 plate appearances for him the rest of the way? He would need to average just over 17 plate appearances per week for the rest of the season to reach that number. That means roughly three to four starts each week with approximately three or four pinch-hitting appearances as well. Sounds like an awful lot, barring another injury to McCann, Heyward or maybe even Freddie Freeman or Justin Upton, if you ask me.

Then, of course there’s the question of whether or not he can sustain this level of power for the entire season. He is currently sporting a juicy .331 ISO with a 22.2-percent HR/FB, but I have a very hard time believing that these numbers can hold. Yes, he’s posted some excellent ISO numbers in the minors, but we’re talking about nothing higher than Double-A ball. I don’t mean to put my Captain Obvious mask and cape on here, but the word ‘regression’ is screaming through my head right now as his plate discipline numbers indicate several more swings-and-misses in the future.

But no one says we have to wake up from this nice, little Gattis dream just yet. If you have a little bit of room on your bench and can afford to carry him on your roster, I think it’s a wise move. Should your regular catcher land on the disabled list or you have a utility spot that needs a temporary fill, there’s nothing wrong with taking a shot that he receives a dozen plate appearances over the course of a week and offers you up a little boost in the counting stats.

If you’re in a keeper league, he even offers up a little more long-term potential as he could be the Braves starting backstop next year. With McCann being a free agent who has been plagued by injuries in recent years, the Braves will have to make a big decision as to whether or not they meet his (more than likely) lofty salary demands or go a much more economical route with Gattis. Considering what he probably cost you this year, he could make for an outstanding keeper next year should he walk into 2014 with the starting job.

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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com

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Evan Gattis = (.5*(Paul Bunyan+Babe Ruth)/2)+(.2*Mike Jacobs)+(.3*Roy Hobbs^Kila K)