Baseball is full of players – stars and role-players alike – who beat the odds and earned a chance to play at the highest level. One of those individuals is currently roaming center field for the Kansas City Royals and while most fans don’t believe Jarrod Dyson has the chops to make it as an everyday outfielder, everyone wants to see him succeed.
No matter the year, a 50th round pick – or any late round selection – reaching and playing in the majors makes for a wonderful story. In the 2006 class, just over 1,500 players were selected (1,502 to be exact) and Dyson was pick number 1,475. That alone makes him noteworthy but it doesn’t stop there. He also gets some fan interest bonus points for being the only player drafted out of Southwest Mississippi Community College – and there are only six such players in the draft era – to make it to the major leagues. No matter what he does going forward, Dyson beat the odds.
As you can guess from the title, this article wasn’t inspired by nor is it really about Kansas City’s lightning-quick, reserve outfielder. But his story and background popped into my head (it’s admittedly a loose tie-in) when I read about yesterday’s promotion of Braves C/OF Evan Gattis from Lynchburg (A+) to Mississippi (AA). Gattis, as I’m sure you can surmise, has a interesting background of his own. Fact of the matter is, he’s walked a very atypical path to get to where he is today. While we will have to wait and see if he will ever reach the big leagues, he’s certainly gotten the attention of a lot of people in and around the game of baseball.
The journey aside, hitting 0.385/.468/.821 with 7 2B, 9 HR and 29 RBI in 21 games in the Carolina League will have that effect.
While he wasn’t a 50th round selection, Gattis had to wait until the 23rd round before the Atlanta Braves grabbed him with the 702nd pick in the 2010 draft. Like Dyson, Gattis signed for just $1,000 and came from a school – University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa – that was very much off the beaten path. The similarities between Jarrod and Evan pretty much end there however. In fact, for Gattis, his eventual college belied his talent as he was a Texas A&M recruit coming out of high school.
Of course he never played for the Aggies.
Evan’s story from his high school graduation to the 2010 draft is one with many peaks, valleys, twists and turns. I’m guessing all of us can relate to at least one – if not a few of the things he’s experienced along the way; injury, self-doubt, drug rehab for a marijuana addiction, depression and wanderlust – but how many of us would return to the thing we left after not doing it for four years?
I’m guessing the percentage is rather small but return to baseball is exactly what Evan Gattis did. He still needs to make up for lost time but there’s no doubt that he’s shown he has the talent to succeed. Now 169 games into his minor league career he has a 0.318/.381/.553 line and 78 extra-base hits combined between his stops at Danville, Rome and Lynchburg. At 25 years of age he’s a bit long in the tooth for a prospect but he’s making up ground quickly. He’s successfully knocked off the rust and has shown great improvement in his patience and approach at the plate. Of course you don’t need to take my word for it since it’s plainly visible in the numbers:
2010 – Danville (Rk): 44 SO and 6 BB in 60 G
2011 – Rome (A): 53 SO and 25 BB in 88 G
2012 – Lynchburg (A+): 12 SO and 10 in 21 G
Given that his plate discipline – outside of his age – was the big concern surrounding his standing as a prospect, it looks more and more like the Atlanta Braves have one of the biggest steals of the 2010 MLB draft on their hands. He has the defensive skills to remain behind the plate if the Braves want to keep him there but he recently started logging some time in LF and the move figures to accelerate his developmental timetable. With his 6′ 4″ and 230 pound frame he might hold up better at another position but at the same time he doesn’t have the same “wear on his tires” thanks to his 4 year hiatus from baseball. Personally I’d like to see him continue his development as a catcher, but regardless of where he plays, he has the plus power and compact swing to be a offensive weapon in the major leagues.
If the progress he’s made with his approach at the plate holds up against Double-A pitching over the summer, we just might see Gattis make his major league debut in September. I root for all minor league players to at least achieve their dream of playing in the big leagues, but I’m pulling just a little bit harder for a guy like Evan Gattis.
It’s awfully hard not to.
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