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Is Evan Gattis' breakout legitimate?

By Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com

Is Evan Gattis for real? (USATSI)
Is Evan Gattis for real? (USATSI)

Braves catcher Evan Gattis has taken his game to another level this year. He's been able to improve every aspect of his slash line during his sophomore season. In the course of just a few months, he's gone from questionable Fantasy option to bonafide starter. The bigger question for Fantasy owners is whether his breakout is legitimate.

Gattis has been succeeding by utilizing the same approach at the plate. Both his strikeout and walk rates are nearly identical to his rookie year. The two areas where he's seen big-time improvement has been in his BABIP and his power.

The power outburst is tough to analyze. We know Gattis is a strong power hitter, and there's nothing in his numbers that imply his new-found power is a fluke. His 20.3 percent home run rate seems high, but Gattis posted a 17.1 percent home run rate last season. It's at least plausible to think this is his natural rate. Even if he sees some decline in this area, he may still wind up around 17 percent. That would be just fine for Fantasy owners.

The bigger issue deals with his BABIP. Last season, Gattis posted a .255 BABIP. That was one of the big reasons for his poor .243 average. It's difficult to explain whether Gattis was bound to rebound, or whether there was something in his approach that led to a low-BABIP. There was some thought that Gattis' low line drive rate may have contributed to his lower-than-normal BABIP. That doesn't appear to be the case this season. Despite posting an even lower line drive rate, Gattis has seen his BABIP just all the way to .314 his sophomore season.

That's because Gattis has a ridiculous .815 BABIP on line drives this year. By comparison, the league-average is .684. The same thing is happening with ground balls. Gattis' BABIP on groudners is a strong .318. The league average is just .237. It should be noted that his fly ball BABIP is down relative to the league average. Still, the line drive and ground ball stats suggest Gattis has been lucky thus far.

With that in mind, we also need to take into account Gattis' hard hit ball percentage. Gattis has a 25 percent hard hit percentage according to ESPN, which ranks among the top figures in the league. Hard hit balls typically turn into hits more often. It's possible this is the culprit behind Gattis' rising BABIP.

Overall, the results are fairly mixed. Hard hit ball rate is relatively new, and we're still trying to figure out exactly what it does. In Gattis' case, it be determine whether he'll continue to hit for a high average the rest of the season. Even with some decline, he should be a strong power source at a position lacking in pop. If he can continue to hit the ball with authority, Gattis' breakout might just be the real thing.

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