The Atlanta Braves finally made a trade this off-season, acquiring catcher Ryan Doumit from the Twins for left-handed starting pitching prospect Sean Gilmartin. Doumit will join Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird in the Braves catching corps, allowing Fredi Gonzalez to use all three players as pinch-hitters when they are not starting.
Doumit is a switch-hitter entering his 10th Major League season next year. He hits well from both sides of the plate, with a career .270/.330/.454 slash line as a left-handed batter, and a .264/.324/.395 slash line as a right-handed batter. The presence of a switch-hitter on a Major League bench is a nice weapon for a manager to have at his disposal.
I’ve always like Doumit since his early days in Pittsburgh — good pop and an aggressive work-a-day approach to the game. He can also play a passable left field as well as hold his own at first base.
Gattis will still get the lion’s share of playing time behind the plate, and when he’s not playing he now becomes the Braves most potent pinch-hitter — a role that he excelled in last season.
The presence of three catchers allows the Braves to be patient with Christian Bethancourt, their prized catching prospect. Doumit is also insurance against Gattis having a Sophomore slump, and insurance against any of their other catchers missing time with an injury.
Sean Gilmartin represents the Braves dealing from an area of strength — back of the rotation pitching prospects. Gilmartin has a ceiling of Scott Diamond from the left side. Here is what I wrote about Gilmartin for this year’s yet to be published 2014 Braves top-30 prospects, in which I ranked him 13th:
His drop in velocity late in 2012 and DL stint for a large part of 2013 with shoulder tendinitis have me worried that his ceiling is lower than expected. Control of four pitches is his asset, but he needs to be able to work his fastball into the low 90s to make his off-speed offerings effective, and he has not been able to maintain his velocity yet in any full season.
He’s not a big loss to the system, and it was probably the right time to trade him before he possibly suffered through another season of triple-A. Gilmartin was supposed to have decent and improving velocity coming out of Florida State in the 2011 draft, but he has been unable to maintain that velocity deep into his starts as a professional. This trend was exposed as he moved up the minor league ladder. Still, there’s time for him to find velocity and become a decent mid-to-back of the rotation starter.
Good trade for the Braves as they continue to add small pieces to the team. Improving the bench was a big to-do for 2014, and Doumit brings experience and a career .262/.344/.393 slash line as a pinch-hitter in 125 plate appearances. It will be interesting to see if he accepts more of a supporting role, as he has started 119 game or more each of the last two seasons. For the Braves, having a bench player who can be a second division starter is good protection against injuries over the course of the season.