Finding a Job for the Best Remaining Hitter on the Market

Spring is almost here and opening day is in less than 3 weeks, yet the best remaining hitter on the market — Evan Gattis — is garnering little to no interest. This likely can be attributed to a combination of factors: there is no DH in the NL and nearly every team in the AL is set at the designated hitter position.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – AUGUST 07: Evan Gattis #11 of the Houston Astros bats against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the seventh inning at AT&T Park on August 7, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

There is, however, one team in the American League who could certainly use a slugger of Gattis’ caliber. That team is the Detroit Tigers. Here’s what the Tigers currently have to offer at DH (per FanGraphs Depth Charts)…

  • John Hicks: PA – 315; AVG – .243; OBP – .288; SLG – .381; Bat – (-7.3); WAR – (-0.5)
  • Mikie Mahtook: PA – 259; AVG – .236; OBP – .295; SLG – .399; Bat – (-4.0); WAR – (-0.2)

Dustin Peterson is another guy who could get playing time at DH. He’s had an awesome Spring Training…

  • PA: 31
  • AVG: .393
  • OBP: .452
  • SLG – .536

but he has minor league options remaining, and the Tigers could very well opt to start him in AAA, as they can’t guarantee him regular playing time (which would be best for his development as a player).

Here is Gattis’ FanGraphs Depth Charts projection for 2019:

  • PA: 350
  • HR: 17
  • AVG: .242
  • OBP: .298
  • SLG: .455
  • Bat – (-0.7)
  • WAR – (-0.2)

Gattis had a rough 2018 campaign (PA – 451; HR – 25; AVG – .226; OBP – .284; SLG – .452), but there’s some reason to feel optimistic heading into 2019. After taking a closer look at his plate discipline numbers, it appears that he didn’t regress as much as his high strikeout rate would suggest…

2017

  • O-Swing: 35.2% (per FanGraphs)
  • Z-Swing: 68%
  • O-Contact: 65.1%
  • Z-Contact: 88.5%
  • Contact: 79.6%
  • SwStr: 10.0%
  • K: 15.4%
  • BB: 5.5%

2018

  • O-Swing: 29.1%
  • Z-Swing: 65.9%
  • O-Contact: 63.5%
  • Z-Contact: 85.4%
  • Contact: 78.2%
  • SwStr: 10.1%
  • K: 22.4%
  • BB: 7.3%

His BABIP in 2018 — .232 — was a career low (.23 points lower than his previous career low, which was in 2013 and .46 points lower than his 2017 BABIP), which means Gattis might’ve been misfortunate in 2018. Other advanced metrics (from Baseball Savant) lead to that same belief…

2017

  • Barrel: 5.5%
  • Exit Velocity: 87.9 mph
  • Hard hit: 34.8%

2018

  • Barrel: 7.6%
  • Exit Velocity: 87.6 mph
  • Hard hit: 33.4%

Gattis was worth a combined 3.7 WAR from 2016-17 and ZiPS projects him to be worth a more robust 1.6 WAR in 2019. Last year, Gattis’ 25 HRs would have been good for the team lead (Castellanos was 1st place with 23 dingers). He would come cheap (probably $1.5-3 million on a 1 year deal) and he would inject plentiful power into what is currently a tame Tigers lineup.

Thanks for reading.

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