With Evan Gattis playing so well this past summer and in the Venezuelan Winter League, is there any chance we see him playing left field for the Braves anytime soon?
-- Steve J., Virginia Beach, Va.
As a fan of great stories, it would certainly be cool to see Gattis rise to the big league level and have a long and prosperous career. Just a few years ago, he was battling depression and substance abuse. Just two years ago, he was a 24-year-old catcher who did not get a chance to play with Class A Rome until Christian Bethancourt got promoted.
Since then, Gattis has terrorized pitchers and established himself as a unique 26-year-old prospect. He made a mockery of the Carolina League at the beginning of this year and then had little trouble at the Double-A level before sustaining a wrist injury. As he hit .303 with 16 home runs and a .595 slugging percentage in 53 games in Venezuela the past couple months, he proved the wrist is healthy and led some of you to wonder if he could play left field in Atlanta this year.
Right now, I'd say it's still too early to tell. Sure, it's encouraging that Gattis produced a .960 OPS in Venezuela. But really how impressive is it when you consider that Gorkys Hernandez produced a .469 slugging percentage. Light-hitting middle infielder Freddy Galvis slugged .432 while playing with Gattis in the VWL.
This does not mean Gattis will not come to Spring Training and continue to impress to the point that he gains an Opening Day roster spot. But before getting too excited about the possibility of seeing him in left field, let's remember that he has played just 222 games and compiled fewer than 1,000 plate appearances at the Minor League level.
And, let's not forget that Gattis has played just 37 games as an outfielder. Concerns about his defensive ability as a catcher led the Braves to move him to left field this past summer. Around that same time, Gattis sustained the wrist injury that sidelined him for a little more than six weeks.
With Brian McCann likely to miss all of April while recovering from shoulder surgery, there is a chance Gattis could begin this season as Atlanta's backup catcher. If he hits during this span, there is a chance the Braves could begin utilizing him as their left fielder on a frequent basis.
But for now, I think it's best to reserve judgment and allow Gattis to prove whether he does indeed belong at the big league level.
How will Brandon Beachy fit in this year's rotation? He's a quality pitcher that was doing very well before getting hurt.
-- Rick W., Bowling Green, Ky.
Speaking of incredible stories, Beachy had certainly established himself as a legit front-of-the-rotation starter before having to undergo Tommy John surgery this past summer. When he returns in late June or early July, he could certainly enhance the depth of what is already a solid starting rotation.
As things currently stand, Beachy's return could bump either Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado out of the rotation. But it's far too early to predict what the situation will be when it's time for Beachy to start pitching again. Unfortunately, you have to always be prepared for the possibility that one of the five projected starters will be sidelined by injury at that point.
Regardless, Beachy has provided every indication that he will have a rotation spot in Atlanta for many years to come. He posted a 2.00 ERA in 13 starts and seemed to be in the midst of a very special season before he got hurt this past season.
During his 2011 rookie season, Beachy produced some impressive strikeout numbers. This past season, he proved successful while showing better command and pitching to contact on a more frequent basis. Along with being physically gifted, he has provided every indication that he has the right mental makeup to be a successful pitcher for many years to come.
With all of the talk about Martin Prado and Juan Francisco taking care of third-base duties, where is Joey Terdoslavich? I thought he was being groomed to take over for Chipper Jones.
-- Chaz M., Piedmont, S.C.
Here is another case where it was easy to get too excited about what a prospect did at one of the lower levels of the Minor Leagues. At this time last year, I was among those projecting Terdoslavich as a potential replacement for Jones at third base. But everything changed once the Braves had Terdoslavich skip the Double-A level and begin the 2012 season with Triple-A Gwinnett.
It took less than a month to determine Terdoslavich was not ready for the Triple-A level. His suspect defensive skills became a greater concern, and he hit just .180 with a .515 OPS in 53 games with Gwinnett.
After going back to Mississippi, Terdoslavich hit .315 with five homers and an .852 OPS. At the same time, he played just six more games at third base. If I had to guess, that is probably six more games than he will end up playing at third base at the big league level.
Is there any chance MLB will change the one-game Wild Card playoff system used in 2012?
-- Larry C., Norcross, Ga.
It is certainly never wise to say "never." But it's pretty safe to assume the one-game Wild Card playoff will remain in place as long as Bud Selig continues to serve as Commissioner. The one-game playoff creates great drama, which equates to better ratings and greater profits. It's a game that can be enjoyed by everybody except those linked to the two teams that end up losing.
The Braves' 6-3 loss to the Cardinals in the 2012 National League Wild Card Game lacked the drama created when the Mariners beat the Angels in 1995 or when Matt Holliday slid toward the plate at Coors Field in 2007.
But when reminiscing about this past season's NL Wild Card Game at Turner Field, you will never forget what happened in the eighth inning, when Holliday reminded us that a defensive play should never be considered routine when he is involved. The "Infield Fly" moment will stand as the one you will always remember from this one game that you would like to forget.