Catching prospects catch Gonzalez’s attention

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — In his second Braves camp as manager,  Fredi Gonzalez likes what he sees from the organization’s up-and-coming catchers.

Highly regarded prospect Christian Bethancourt, 20, and strapping Evan Gattis, 24, were among the catchers in a hitting group late in Tuesday’s batting practice on the main field at Champion Stadium.

Listed at 6-4 and 230 pounds, Gattis won the South Atlanta League batting title at Class A Rome by batting .322 with 22 homers, 71 RBIs and a .386 OBP in just 88 games. He was older than most in A-ball because he was once out of baseball for four years, struggling with personal problems including a drug problem.

“I was joking with [roving catching instructor] Joe Breeden,” said Gonzalez, also a former minor league catcher. “I said ‘Man, we’ve finally got some guys that look like catchers.’ They’re all 6-2, 240. Gattis is a monster. And Bethancourt looks like he could put some weight on him.”

Gattis is old school at the plate, batting without gloves.

“I saw him out there doing about a hundred pull-ups the other day — without gloves,” Gonzalez said. “He’s strong.”

Diaz hopes to speed up (hands) by slimming down

Left fielder Matt Diaz took a less-is-more approach this winter, slimming down after hitting no homers and slugging .323 in 251 at-bats for Pittsburgh and Atlanta in 2011.

He had seven homers and a .428 slugging percentage in 224 at-bats for the Braves in 2010, then bulked up after signing a two-year contract with Pittsburgh in December that year. He was traded back to the Braves on Aug. 31.

“I did more power lifting and that stuff because in my mind, [Pittsburgh] is a big field and I wanted to add some more pop,” Diaz said of his strategy a year ago, when he said he followed recommendations by a since-fired Pirates strength coach.

“But it just absolutely backfired. I wasn’t free and easy with my swing. I didn’t have hand speed, which leads to power. I was strong in the weight room, but had no bat speed. It disappeared. There’s a lot more than strength to hitting, and I know that.”

He doesn’t know how much he weighs now because, he said, he stopped weighing a while back. But he does know this: “The clothes I wore in ’09 fit me.”

37 comments Add your comment

Bayou Brave

February 21st, 2012
5:09 pm

I once did 10 pull-ups when I was in college. It’s been downhill ever since. 100 pull-ups is crazy.

Jim

February 21st, 2012
5:19 pm

Hope all that weight training doesn’t backfire on Uggla like Daiz said it did to him (i.e. slowed down his swing). Uggla had enough power………… needed exercises to keep from striking out.

HAL

February 21st, 2012
5:22 pm

i once did 3 pull ups then the batender cut me off lol

alanfalcon

February 21st, 2012
5:34 pm

What is it that some atheletes don’t understand about weights, muscles and lost of agility, its there lively hood and yet they seem to lose their way as to what they need as and individual to be sucessful in their sport–DUMB !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Pull-Up King

February 21st, 2012
7:05 pm

I laugh in the face of 100 pull-ups.

jack

February 21st, 2012
7:07 pm

I used to wear pull ups but graduated to big boy pants.

Rafael Ramirez

February 21st, 2012
8:05 pm

¿Qué es un tire hacia arriba?

richbrave

February 21st, 2012
8:08 pm

MATT KENNELLY

I’m well familiar with all three catchers that are rising within the organization this season. MATT KENNELLY is an AUSSIE who is Mr. Slow and Steady.

Solid defensively, MATT will invariably initially struggle with the bat as he moves up a rung on the minor’s ladder, but eventually gets the hang of things. His latest move up is to GWINNETT, where we’ll now get to see what he’s got offensively.

He played a some catcher, but primarily was used at 1B, with limited time spent at the corners in the outfield in winter-ball this season, I assume to give him some positional flexibility. From the BRAVES way of thinking, I believe they hope his bat will come around in AAA, and he can ultimately take over for ROSSY. Frankly, his defense will prolly hold up, but I’m not as sanquine of his bat. Two season’s to ATLANTA with a top-out ceiling as the back-up catcher IMHO.

TheAntiMe

February 21st, 2012
8:15 pm

I gave up doing pull-ups and have since replaced them in my routine with vodka curls. I’m not sure if it has improved my strength or not but has certainly improved my disposition. :D

Rafael

February 21st, 2012
9:40 pm

I’m SOOO EXCITED to watch SUPERSTAR Matt Diaz as our starting LF this season!!!!

Matt Diaz is an ALL-STAR slugger stud… with his 30+ HR power, his 100+ RBIs, his .300+ BA, and his GOLD-GLOVE defense. He “rakes” lefthanders you know.

Matt Diaz can also entertain us during the 7th inning stretch with his stand-up COMEDY routine. Quoting the AJC, “Matt managed to keep his sense of HUMOR despite the Brave’s playoff collaspe.”

Wow… “2 for 1″ this year… the great Matt Diaz and 33% off Turner Dogs. You CAN’T beat that combination!!!!!

TNBrave

February 21st, 2012
10:07 pm

Must I stand here alone in support of Matt Diaz? This is the year for Matt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Atlanta Sports Fan is an Oxymoron

February 21st, 2012
10:15 pm

Ugh……Braves, Falcons, Hawks, Dawgs, Jackets, the departed Thrashers…..welcome to Loserville, USA!!

We’ve become the Cleveland of the South. Simply depressing.

The Bravenator

February 21st, 2012
11:10 pm

About 40 years ago, batting great Ted Williams wrote a book “Hit It My Way” in which he emphasized two things to young hitters. The first was that a Charles Atlas physique isn’t required to hit a baseball for both homers and a high average. Good conditioning, yes, but not large biceps. The second, is that hitting a 90 mph object coming at you from a distance of sixty feet is the single most difficult thing to do in sports. Eye-hand coordination, arc level of swing and bat speed are everything. Get these guys out of the weight room and make them watch tape of good hitters across generations. Regardless of physical stature, the great hitters all have these same traits in common. In addition, they have discipline and focus. You don’t see much of either these days.

Michael Procton

February 21st, 2012
11:31 pm

Rafael, I’m confused. It appears to ME that they have Martin Prado penciled in as the primary left fielder. Or do you know something we don’t?

Well...

February 21st, 2012
11:37 pm

You’re right about hand-eye coordination and arc of swing being hugely important. But a major component of bat speed is lower-body/core strength, and you’ve got to hit the weight room if you want to hit with any power. And I’d totally disagree with the idea that players’ hand-eye coordination or swing paths or bat speed are lower now than 40 years ago. Today’s athletes are in better shape, and spend more time preparing. They have access to better information, such as slow-motion video of every swing they’ve taken all season. And, due to a wide variety of societal factors, the talent pool is larger than it’s ever been, meaning that the overall talent level of players has risen with it.

The idea that players today are “undisciplined” or “unfocused” is largely untrue. If you’re going to be successful in the MLB, you HAVE to put in an extraordinary amount of effort. As much information as hitters have about their swings and pitchers’ tendencies, opposing pitchers have just as much information about the hitters. They know their tendencies, they know how to pitch them, and they are pitching at an ABSURDLY high level. Today’s pitchers are throwing faster, more accurately, and with better movement than ever before.

So, basically…

Nostalgia for “the old days” is understandable, but misguided. The quality of baseball is the highest that it’s ever been. And it’s really freaking awesome to watch.

Tip O' the Cap

February 21st, 2012
11:52 pm

@jack

Bwaahaaa!!!! I’m laughing so hard, I’m going to have to change my Depends!

Rafael

February 22nd, 2012
1:33 am

Michael… With no malice or disrepect to you, Matt Diaz will get 300+ ABs this season.

Martin Prado will be penciled in often as our starting 3B when Chipper consistently gets hurt. There is a great possibility Prado may be traded during Spring Training.

Nevertheless, the Braves brass seem to love “AFFORDABLE” Matt Diaz.

Realistically, Matt Diaz could NOT make any other MLB roster. Diaz is a NO-TALENT BUM. Diaz must be Fredi Gonzalez’ nephew. There is NO other reason this washed-up stiff should be on our roster.

Diaz is Liberty CHEAPIA’s type of ballplayer…. AFFORDABLE. Doesn’t matter if he can’t hit or field, he’s “AFFORDABLE.”

NickB

February 22nd, 2012
3:39 am

Rafael………..sigh……..

Diaz is here for one reason, and one reason only. to hit left handed pitching.He has a career OPS of .879 and an RC+ of 129 against lefties. last year wasn’t so good for him (and may be explained by the weight gain) But if you look at his career, there is reason to expect him to do much worse than a .750 OPS off the bench against lefties. i’ll take that every time for $1mill or so.

NickB

February 22nd, 2012
3:40 am

NO reason to expect him to do worse han a .750 I meant…. wish we had an edit feature

keef

February 22nd, 2012
5:49 am

AP- The Atlanta Braves have just re-signed Hall of Fame slugger Henry Aaron to play right field and first base. Though, 70+ and last played in 1976, the Braves feel that with Aaron’s off season workout regimen, he can rebound to his 1980 form. Having both knees replaced, Aaron feels he can contribute 0-1 stolen base. When asked about payroll and Aaron’s added $14,227.77, Liberty Media responded that they will “spare no expense to brings a World Series to Atlanta…the Angles have Pujols, the Yankees have Arod, we have an elected Hall of Famer and NO team can boast that…” Frank Wren and John Scherholtz declined to comment and hid in their offices….

Lee in S GA

February 22nd, 2012
7:00 am

McCann probably can’t do 2 pull ups and neither 1 of these catchers are taking his place …especially after an extention is eventually signed

JoeFan

February 22nd, 2012
7:51 am

The backlog in top shelf catching prospects is the primary reason the Braves will wait until the last moment before extending McCann. This organization as it is run today want throw millions at a player when they can get a less expensive option that is at least average offensively but better defensively and Bethancourt may well fill both criteria.

Jefferson

February 22nd, 2012
8:13 am

Any possibility that McCann will switch positions soon?
Not only to take the stress of his body but to keep him around longer and make room for Bethancourt.

Jefferson

February 22nd, 2012
8:18 am

Any possiblity that McCann can play 3rd? or move to LF? or move to 1st and Freeman moves to 3rd or LF?

Jefferson

February 22nd, 2012
8:27 am

G.Howard

February 22nd, 2012
9:12 am

Maybe it should be suggested that Freddy F. get for prepared for LF. He’s young enough to make the switch and adjust. McCann could go to first and still contribute greatly while foregoing some of the wear and tear on his body which already, seemingly, is on the down side. Then it would be a perfect time for one of the kid catcher prospects to come through behind the plate.

Chipper = Fat

February 22nd, 2012
9:19 am

I wonder how many pull ups Chipper can do?

Catcher of the Rye

February 22nd, 2012
10:36 am

It’s good that the Brave’s have some top catching prospects…………..that way management can dump McCann’s salary so they came make more money for Liberty Media!

Salary Dump

February 22nd, 2012
10:42 am

Lets see now:Dump McCann,Bourn,Jones,Uggly,Prado,Jurrjens and Hudson and the Liberty Brass will say Bravo to Brave’s management for having the lowest payroll in baseball and will still probably have a .500 team!

Whopper Chopper

February 22nd, 2012
10:44 am

Chipper looks like he became a “Whopper Chopper”in the offseason!

Chipper's new career

February 22nd, 2012
10:46 am

Chipper looks like he belongs on the show”American Hoggers”!

Chipper's new career

February 22nd, 2012
10:49 am

Maybe “Swamp People”………………….choot Chipper choot!

lns

February 22nd, 2012
12:02 pm

Hey you don’t have to bulk up to be a good hitter. Look at the size of home run king Henry Aaron… He not only hit homers he also was a very good hitter.

Chipper = Fat

February 22nd, 2012
12:24 pm

Chipper spent his off season bulking up…….. On the chocolate waterfall at the Golden Coral near his ranch in Texas. His poor knees will never hold up over this season

mattdiazfan

February 22nd, 2012
1:14 pm

MattE is an absolute BEAST……. And such a christian role model..

BravesFanSince80's

February 22nd, 2012
1:30 pm

@Chipper=Fat: your face=fat

Dale

February 22nd, 2012
4:14 pm

Suggesting that Freeman be moved from first to make room for McCann is idiotic. First of all, Freeman is an outstanding glove at first. He will probably win several Gold Gloves over his career. When is that last time McCann played first base? High School? Second, McCann has stated he has no desire to change positions. If and when he physically can’t play the position, he may reconsider. But I doubt it. Going from being involved on every pitch to standing around in between pitches out in left field would probably drive him insane

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