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BRAVES MINOR LEAGUE NOTES: Intriguing prospect Gattis off to red-hot start

Evan Gattis impressed Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez during spring training, going 2-for-5 in early Grapefruit League action.

"You've got to like his bat," Gonzalez said. "He can hit."

Gattis is certainly doing that with a vengeance at Lynchburg to start the season, leading the Class A Advanced Carolina League with nine homers and 27 RBIs while batting .375 in 19 games through Friday.

But the native of Texas doesn't have a full-time position defensively and his age also works against him.

Gattis' past is a checkered one. He was away from baseball for four years after high school, spending time in drug rehab and for a while living out of his truck.

The right-handed hitter was already nearly 24 when he was drafted by the Braves after one season at a Texas college and he will turn 26 in August. That means Gattis is an old man for the Carolina League.

A step up to the Class AA Southern League is probably coming soon. Right now, though, the Braves are working on transitioning Gattis, who has been a catcher and occasional first baseman, to duty in the outfield.

Someone who could play multiple positions and swing the bat like Gattis does would be intriguing no matter his age.

"To have someone who can be your third catcher is valuable," Gonzalez said.

But it is at the plate where Gattis excels. He hit .322 with 22 homers and 71 RBIs in just 88 games at Class A Rome last season, so his fast start at Lynchburg this year is hardly a fluke.

Power shortage in Mississippi

When Ian Gac homered on Friday, it broke a streak of 11 games without a long ball by Mississippi. The M-Braves have just three homers in 23 games and Gac has hit all of them.

The first baseman bashed 33 homers last season for Winston-Salem in the Carolina League before signing with the Braves as a minor league free agent. This is his first shot at Class AA after nine years in Class A. He previously played in the Rangers and White Sox organizations.

In addition to the lack of power, the M-Braves don't have a regular batting .300. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons, though, was hitting .282 with 10 RBIs through17 games.

Gilmartin still winless

Left-hander Sean Gilmartin, the Braves' first-round draft choice last June, is 0-3 with a 3.65 ERA in five starts for Mississippi.

The former Florida State ace allowed just two hits over six scoreless innings in an impressive first start. But he got a no-decision in that game, as well as in another where he worked eight innings and gave up two runs on six hits.

Send down from Gwinnett after six relief appearances, Jose Lugo started for Mississippi on Wednesday and picked up a victory. The left-hander allowed two hits and a run over five innings.

Rome has more bad times

Rome was 60-80 last season and things have gone from bad to worse for the South Atlantic League team this season. Only one team in the minors had a poorer record than the R-Braves' 5-16 through Friday.

Rome pitchers gave up 24 hits and 14 walks in a 24-2 loss to Hagerstown on Wednesday in the lowlight so far. Hagerstown's Steven Souza had nine RBIs, going 4-for-6 with a homer and triple.

The Suns dropped Rome to 2-9 at home on Friday, breaking a tie with a six-run ninth inning that featured a grand slam by Justin Miller.