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So here's an obvious comparison:
- Player A ('13-14): .253/.304/.487, 5.5 BB%, 22.7 SO%, .234 ISO
- Player B ('11-13): .251/.300/.473, 6.3 BB%, 24.9 SO%, .221 ISO
Player A is, as you probably guessed, Gattis. Having trouble with Player B? Here are a few hints. He was traded last offseason in a widely panned deal. The reason? He was thought of as too limited for the role his acquiring team had in mind. Give up? Player B is Mark Trumbo. Yeah, it's not a watermelon-to-watermelon comparison—Trumbo was younger with more playing time, Gattis had played the more challenging defensive position, and so on—the point here is these guys are/were fairly similar hitters.
Is that a good thing? The Astros would say yes, and not just because of this deal. Jeff Luhnow has built a lineup that resembles Gattis in a few ways: challenged defensively, prone to strikeouts, and wont to hit the soul out of the baseball on contact.
Consider how the Astros should have the worst defensive middle infield in the American League, and how they'll field at least two more negatives—be it Gattis, Jonathan Singleton, and/or Chris Carter—in left field and at first base. The Astros have led the AL in strikeout rate in each of the past three seasons, and contact woes are so prevalent in Houston that Gattis—who, remember, K'd almost a quarter of the time last season—would have ranked sixth among returning Astros with more than 300 plate appearances. The Astros are going to lead the AL in Ks again.
But Luhnow will deal with the strikeouts provided the hitters make contact with gusto. Three of those five Astros with higher strikeout rates than Gattis posted an ISO better than .150, with two topping .200. (The two who didn't hit for much pop—Robbie Grossman and Jason Castro—could be phased out in favor of Gattis.) Likewise, Luhnow is willing to ignore Gattis' flaws should he continue to slug.
You can pick at Gattis' unprejudiced approach offensively, but the real concerns are his defense and durability. He isn't Doumit behind the plate, but he is a big feller with two knee operations and a shaky back. It would be in the Astros' best interests to play him at a position that demands less physically, like left field. The drawback to moving Gattis out yonder is he's unlikely to play tolerable defense due to his immobility and inexperience. The Astros are essentially banking on Gattis hitting so well in their bandbox stadium that he doesn't give it back on defense.
That brings up Gattis' long-term fit in Houston. He turns 29 in August and, while he won't qualify for free agency until after the 2018 season, there's no guarantee he remains employable. His skill set doesn't always age well—heck, it isn't always cute when it's young, either; just look at Dayan Viciedo—and the health woes make him an even bigger attrition risk. Nonetheless, it's hard to rail on the Astros for making an effort to improve the current standing of their big-league product. Gattis has his warts, no doubt, but he's a legitimate big-league hitter and he ought to help the Astros score more runs. —R.J. Anderson
Of all the fantasy assets who've changed teams this offseason, Gattis is on the short list of those who've seen their stock rise the most. He's trading a park that plays slightly worse than neutral for right-handed power for a good park for right-handed sluggers. He's going to a league that should allow him to see some time at DH. And he's arguably heading to a better lineup than the one he's leaving behind, thanks to the departures of Jason Heyward and Justin Upton. Gattis may not get as big a bump in playing time in Houston as he might have were he traded to another AL club thanks to Chris Carter and Jonathan Singleton, but he's still good for more playing time in the junior circuit. Plus, early reports indicate that while "El Oso Blanco" is likely to spend most of his time in left field, he could get some starts at first base and behind the plate, which would make him a fantasy monster. Game of Thrones fans will recognize this as contemporary retelling of The Bear and the Minute Maid-en Fair.
Jake Marisnick and Robbie Grossman
It looked like this had a chance to be an interesting platoon before the season began, but it's much tougher to see that now. Marisnick has the natural tools to be a solid fantasy outfielder, but it looks more and more like he could be pigeonholed into a fourth outfielder-type role. Grossman was only interesting in AL-only leagues, and now he could be robbed of the chance to accumulate even just 144 at-bats. At least he'd be living up to his name. —Ben Carsley
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Acquired RHP Mike Foltynewicz, 3B-L Rio Ruiz, and RHP Andrew Thurman from the Astros in exchange for OF/C/DH-R Evan Gattis. [1/14]
The Astros invested a lot in Ruiz, paying him $1.85 million as a fourth-round pick in 2012 based mainly on the potential of his bat. That ability is still very much Ruiz's best trait, though the gap is not so large to write him off as a third baseman. His bat shows the potential for above-average power, though there's a small loop in his swing that could cause some swing-and-miss issues down the road against more advanced pitching. He has a tendency to get rotational in his swing and pulls off the ball some, but none of these flaws is beyond repair. A more whole-field approach could allow him to use his power with more ease and be a more complete hitter. If he makes the necessary adjustments, he should grow into an above-avearge offensive force at third base. In the field, he has more than enough arm to stay on the left side of the infield, and enough range to play an adequate third base, assuming he shores up his footwork. He'll likely never be an above-average third baseman, but he should be good enough to remain there throughout his 20s, and if there's a team that can get by with below-average range at the hot corner, it's one employing Andrelton Simmons at shortstop.
If Ruiz has to shift over to first base, his value will diminish greatly, as it will take every drop of his power to produce enough clout for first base (not to mention he's blocked by Freddie Freeman). Still, he easily becomes the best third baseman in the Braves farm system. He's headed for a big test leaving the California League behind for the Southern League. —Jeff Moore
A 2010 first-round selection, Mike Foltynewicz, hereby referred to as ‘Folty,' would be the ideal candidate for that stupid game at the carnival where you have to knock down the glass milk jars with an undersized ball. The ship hasn’t quite sailed on Folty’s chances of starting, but Ponce de Leon has loaded most of his cargo and rum, and his crew is pulling up the anchor. His fastball is the calling card and a top-of-the-scale offering, sitting in the mid-to-high 90s and touching triple digits with life. With an ideal starter’s body and the ability to hold his elite velocity late into games, it’s only logical to give the prospect every opportunity to take the ball every fifth day. However, the command still needs to take a step forward to start in order to reach that goal. In a late-inning capacity, control would supersede command as a grip-'n'-rip shutdown reliever. Aside from a big fastball, the right-hander features a hard breaking ball and lagging change up. In short bursts, a high-90s fastball/slider repertoire could wreak havoc on opposing hitters.
It’s always disconcerting when a high-round, big-conference college draftee lays an egg in the Midwest League—especially a pitcher—as the league is generally unkind to hitters. Thurman, a second rounder in 2013, was touched up for a 5.38 ERA in his first year of full-season ball. Not all was lost, however, as his velocity gained a tick from his college days, consistently sitting in the low 90s, touching 95. Thurman also offers a hodgepodge of other pitches that may end up fringy or average: a slider, curveball, and changeup. None of his secondaries are bat-missers, but he can execute a sequence with anything in his arsenal. The separator for the 23-year-old is command, like all pitchers with average stuff. If he can refine that aspect of his game to a solid-average level, there’s back-end starter possibility. —Jordan Gorosh
Foltynewicz is probably a reliever, but he's got a better chance of sustaining success as a starter in the NL than he did in the AL, and all the park factors we mentioned for Gattis above hold true for Folty as well. If the Braves do want him to start his 2015 value takes a hit, since there's more competition in the Atlanta rotation, but his long-term prognosis is better. —Ben Carsley
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