What Should the Braves Do with Evan Gattis When Brian McCann Returns from DL?

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 3:  Evan Gattis #24 of the Atlanta Braves hits a solo home run in the fourth inning of the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field on April 3, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

One of the many early-season storylines surrounding the Atlanta Braves this season was the health of starting catcher Brian McCann and if a solid replacement could be found for him while he was on the disabled list. 

Any concerns about who his replacement may be and how he will perform to start the season have been washed away by the strong output of Evan Gattis. Gattis is hitting .391 with three home runs and 6 RBI in six games this season. 

Gattis, who did not play above Double-A last season, surged onto the scene during the spring and he has now supplanted veteran Gerald Laird as the starting catcher for the moment. 

But Gattis' position on the Braves' roster will be called into question in a few weeks when McCann's shoulder is fully healed.

There is no doubt that McCann should not be the man behind the plate on an everyday basis once he is healthy. But there are plenty of doubts about the immediate future of Gattis. 

With a veteran in Laird already on the roster, the Braves will have plenty of cover for McCann if he needs a day off or two throughout the season.

With McCann and Laird already on the roster, the logical option regarding Gattis would be to send him down to Triple-A Gwinnett to continue to get playing time and experience, instead of wasting away on the bench in the major leagues. 

Currently at Gwinnett, the Braves have Jose Yepez and Matt Pagnozzi on the roster, but neither of those players would be preferred ahead of Gattis if he gets sent down to the International League. 

The other, more intriguing option for the Braves to utilize when McCann is healthy is to keep Gattis on the 25-man roster and send down an outfielder—most likely in the form of Jordan Schafer. 

Gattis has the rare versatility of playing catcher and left field, and his range will have to be taken into consideration by general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez when it is time to make the decision. 

If Gattis were to stay in the major leagues, he would be relied on to be a key pinch-hitter late in the game and even a spot starter in place of B.J. Upton if he continues to struggle at the plate. Gattis would start in left and Justin Upton would move to center if that were to happen.

Keeping Gattis on the 25-man roster would give the Braves some extra power off the bench and keep the pressure on Upton just a bit, but it just does not make sense in the long-term future of the ballclub. 

Gattis is potentially the replacement for McCann if he cannot get things together after coming off the disabled list. If he stays up in the majors, he will not get the real-time experience of handling a pitching staff on a daily basis. 

At Triple-A, Gattis will be able to do just that, and if he is needed at the major league level later in the season, he would be able to slot back right into the lineup without a hitch. 

While this decision is still a week or two away, it is time to start thinking about the early success of Gattis and whether or not he deserves a spot on the 25-man roster. Or if he is just a fill-in player who has gotten lucky with a hot streak to start the season. 

What do you think the Braves should do with Evan Gattis when McCann returns?

Comment below or follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90