By: John Wickham
Again it is early. Way too early to be casting MVP votes but if I did Justin Upton is 1 and right behind him is Evan Gattis. The only way you have not heard his story is if you are not a Braves fan or have been living under a rock. His stats right now are: .325 AVG 4 HR 10 RBI 5 Runs scored .385 OBP .735 SLUG. We are 12 games in of a 162 game schedule and he has played in 8 of them. So if this was the NFL he has played 3 quarters of 1 game. I am not saying he can keep up this production because it is not possible.
Pitchers are going to get more looks at him, there is going to be book on him soon. What he hits well and what he doesn’t and where he likes it and where he is weak. Pitchers will catch up on what he is good at and take that away. Right now they are testing him. Challenging him to hit the fastball. They are willing to take their lumps now to find out what they want to know. Baseball is a game of adjustments. Pitchers are going to make their adjustments, the next step is will he be able to make his own adjustments.
To me one of the signs of a good hitter is plate discipline and plate awareness. He has 7 strikeouts and 4 walks in 34 ABs. It is too small of a sample size to tell if he is a free swinger or not. When I watch him I think he has pretty good idea of the strike zone. He is going to strikeout some, on occasion he will be fooled, who hasn’t but to me he looks like he has a plan going up there.
Another thing going for him is his willingness to work on his defense and talk to the pitchers to see what they like and challenge them to throw something they might not necessarily have called themselves. In Spring Training a major question was will he be able to do enough defensively to have a chance. He did more than just not embarrass himself. He looked like a competent guy behind the plate. He looks to be about average behind the plate. He is not going to win a Gold Glove there or throw out a lot of base runners but he will do enough to not make himself a liability.
I have spent the last few weeks looking at expert opinions on the guy. They are in general agreement that he is a major league player and possibly a starter or a part of a platoon but caution patience because it is too early to make any final decision.
In the end the Braves really only need him to keep it up for the next 3-4 weeks or however long it takes Brian McCann to come back from rehab of his shoulder. Until then I’ll keep riding in the Evan Gattis bandwagon.