Bill Shanks talks with Lynchburg announcer Erik Wilson about the first place Hillcats.
Remember the name Evan Gattis
Who is Evan Gattis? The quick answer is he's a 25-year-old catcher that is trying to learn how to play left field. He's also tearing up the minor leagues and quickly becoming a potential option for the major league Braves for later in the summer.
You might have heard about Gattis in spring training. His full story is too long to recount again in this forum. If all turns out well, it might well be a movie one day. But it's safe to say Gattis' journey has been a rocky one.
Instead of going to college out of high school, Gattis found himself in drug rehab, and then a halfway house. He became a drifter, floating from town to town out west, looking for work. Baseball was put on hold, as drugs and alcohol got ahold of him.
Two years ago, after four years away from baseball, Gattis got the urge to play again. He went to the University of Texas-Permian Basin, and the talent he had in high school was still there. Gattis told me this spring it was in college he knew he still had a chance to play pro ball.
"I worked hard there to get in shape, to play again," Gattis said. "I didn't really know what to expect, because I hadn't played a game at all in four years. I think in like my second game, I hit one home run foul and then another one in the same at bat fair. I was like, ‘man, maybe I'll be alright.'"
Atlanta drafted Gattis in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft. Last year, Gattis went to Rome and hit 22 home runs in 338 at bats. It was pretty impressive, but he was a 24-year-old in a league with a lot of teenagers. Gattis got the Braves' front office's attention, and he was invited to major league camp this spring.
The positive impression continued. He hit bombs against major league pitchers in batting practice. He showed he could catch a little bit. And when he left big league camp to head back to the minor league side, everyone, including manager Fredi Gonzalez, knew who Evan Gattis was.
The Braves sent him to High-A Lynchburg to start the season. It was the next step on the minor league ladder, even though at 25 he was still a bit older for the league. Well, all Gattis did was dominate. In 21 games, he led the Carolina League in almost every single offensive category – nine home runs, 29 RBI, a .385 batting average, and a .468 on base percentage in only 94 plate appearances.
Then the Braves decided he was ready for another test.
So they sent him to Mississippi 10 days ago, and he's continued his abuse of the minor league pitchers. Through Monday, Gattis was hitting .321 with four home runs and nine RBI in his first seven Double-A games.
That's 13 home runs and 38 RBI in 106 minor league at bats this season. That's a story waiting to happen.
The Braves have him playing left field now. It's not that he can't catch, but there's someone in his way in Atlanta. Sure, Martin Prado is in left field for the big league team, but just giving Gattis versatility could make him an option later this summer.
Well, that bat is what may make him an option later this summer. The Braves know they may have something here. They're not sure if it's another Josh Hamilton or another Joe Charboneau.
What they do know is that Gattis is the type of player that could impact a pennant race. We see it every year, don't we - player that comes out of nowhere and grabs headlines to help a team win.
Gattis has been to hell and back, but now he's no longer nowhere. He's a name you should keep in mind as someone that could help this Atlanta team later this season. And if he keeps hitting home runs, it might be sooner rather than later.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, GA, WHAL Fox Sports 1460 in Columbus, GA and WCOH Fox Sports 1400 in Newnan, GA. Shanks is a columnist for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.
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