Carolina notes: Gattis off to hot start

Braves catching prospect leads league in average, home runs

Evan Gattis had two homers and five RBIs on Tuesday night. (Shawn E. Davis/

By Jeff Seidel / Special to | April 25, 2012 6:42 AM ET

Lynchburg's Evan Gattis got off to a bit of a late start in his pro career, but he's certainly making up for lost time.

The catching prospect didn't begin his professional baseball career until he was 23, when the Braves selected him in the 23rd round of the 2010 Draft. He's been a solid hitter ever since and has gotten off to a quick start this season, ranking at or near the top of the Carolina League in a number of offensive categories.

Gattis, who turns 26 in August, ranks first in the league with a .424 batting average and also leads the Carolina League in homers (eight), RBIs (26), on-base percentage (.507), slugging percentage (.898) and is at or near the top in other categories.

"It's a blast so far, and it's beautiful," Gattis said. "I think before I quit ... because I was afraid to fail. Now I'm not afraid to fail."

Gattis did a lot of other stuff for awhile after finishing high school in Forney, Texas. He was supposed to go play for Texas A&M but changed his mind and walked away from the game for about four years.

An article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution earlier this spring talked about the long trip Gattis took while trying to find what would be good in his life. He went to different places and worked at different jobs before eventually finding his way back to baseball and a spot in the University of Texas-Permian Basin team while his stepbrother pitched there, and the coach knew him from his high school days.

Gattis played one season there and earned All-Heartland Conference honors thanks to a .403 average in 2010. That's when the Braves picked him in the Draft.

He began playing at Rookie-level Danville in the Appalachian League in 2010 just before his 24th birthday, six to seven years later than some guys start their careers. But Gattis hit .288 that season and moved up to Rome of the South Atlantic League last year, where he posted a .322 average with 22 homers and 71 RBIs, earning post-season All-Star honors.

Gattis is a catcher who's also working on outfield skills. His quick start this season could make the Braves consider moving him up.

"Evan continues to improve and is following up last year's outstanding season with a strong start," said Bruce Manno, the Braves' assistant general manager and director of player development. "He will start transitioning to the outfield, which will give him more versatility and also more opportunity to advance."

Lynchburg manager Luis Salazar said Gattis has been working hard on hitting and playing catcher and the outfield. Salazar also said he could see Gattis becoming a left fielder in the future, and it's easy to see that he's on a mission.

"He hits the ball with authority and uses the whole field," Salazar said. "He's got a really good idea of what he does at home plate. He's a very dangerous hitter right now."

Gattis, who homered twice and drove in five runs on Tuesday, said his work ethic is something he takes pride in and has helped him make up for the late start.

"If you always work your hardest, you can't work any harder," Gattis said. "Now I'm on the right track. I intend to get to the big leagues."

Movin on up: Ronnie Welty got off to a hot start in Frederick, posting a league-high .415 average with three homers and 17 RBIs in 13 games. That's why the Orioles moved him up to Double-A Bowie of the Eastern League.

Not giving up much: Wilmington right-hander Jason Adam has been very stingy in his first four starts. Adam has allowed only two runs -- one earned -- in 22 2/3 innings. He's got a league-best 0.40 ERA despite just a 1-1 record.

Quick start: Shannon Wilkerson got hot for Salem late last week, going 8-for-17 over a five-game stretch through Monday. That increased his average to .391, third-best in the league.

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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