Advertisements

Prospect Profile: Chris Gittens

Embed from Getty Images

The particulars

  • Position: 1B
  • Born: 2/4/1994
  • Bats: Right
  • Throws: Right
  • Height: 6’4″
  • Weight: 250 lbs.

Background

Gittens hails from Texas and attended Grayson County Junior College before the Yankees selected him in the 12th round of the 2014 draft. As an amateur, the first baseman garnered interest both as a hitter and pitcher. He touched 93 MPH with his fastball and also offered a 12-to-6 curveball per Baseball America’s 2014 draft report. However, his power at the dish was always his best tool. The Yankees paid Gittens a $125,000 signing bonus and stuck him at first base right away.

The story so far

Slowly but surely, Gittens has ascended the organization’s minor league ranks. And aside from some struggles at Double-A in 2018, the slugger has raked at every stop.

After the draft, Gittens made a brief cameo in rookie-ball and hit .286/.400/.400 in 45 plate appearances in the GCL (129 wRC+). Surprisingly, he didn’t hit a single home run. He returned to the GCL to start the 2015 season and absolutely dominated the level, batting .363/.452/.645 with 8 long balls in 146 plate appearances (220 wRC+). That performance earned him a five game cameo in High-A Tampa to close out the season.

In 2016, Gittens spent all year in full-season ball with Single-A Charleston. There, he showed off his power (21 homers and .225 ISO), but also some propensity to swing-and-miss (27.9 percent K-rate). All told, his 140 wRC+ made him the RiverDogs top hitter that season. He moved up to High-A Tampa for the 2017 campaign, but missed most of June and July due to an undisclosed injury. But when on the field, he more or less performed like he did at Charleston: .266/.372/.472 (150 wRC+) with 13 homers, a .206 ISO, and 27.2 percent strikeout rate in 290 plate appearances. You can sense a running theme for the first baseman here.

As mentioned, 2018 was not so pleasant. Gittens power dissipated (.142 ISO) and his strikeout rate increased to 30.5 percent while with Double-A Trenton. He again spent some time on the shelf (hip injury), absent from play from mid-June until the end of August. And at this point, it seemed like Gittens might not be able to hack it at the upper rungs of the minor leagues. Opposing pitchers really jump up a notch going from Single-A to Double-A, and perhaps Gittens wasn’t going to be up to snuff with his high strikeout totals.

Enter 2019, or as I’d call it: the Gittens revenge tour. Then 25, and seemingly a fringe prospect or organizational fodder at best, the first baseman broke out and won the Eastern League MVP for Trenton. In 478 trip to the plate, he hit .281/.393/.500 (164 wRC+) and blasted 23 homers (.219 ISO). He still struck out a lot (29.1 percent), but his power impressed. Nonetheless, there just wasn’t much room for him at Triple-A or the majors, unfortunately. Mike Ford and Greg Bird held down first base depth for Luke Voit that year. In the offseason, any team could have grabbed Gittens in the Rule 5 draft, but no team took a stab.

The Yankees invited Gittens to big league camp in 2020, but somewhat surprisingly after the season’s delay, left him off the team’s 60-player pool for the regular season. And without the minor league season, Gittens had no opportunity to build off his MVP campaign with Trenton. It’s one thing to lose a year of development as a teen or early-20s prospect, but missing a year at 26 might be even worse. Opportunities are rare as it is for players like Gittens, who get labeled as Quad-A sluggers, so missing a prime-age year is brutal.

Gittens became a minor league free agent after 2020, and in spite of arguably better opportunities elsewhere, he returned to the Yankees. Now, 2021 has offered new hope for a big league opportunity. Gittens again returned to major league spring training, wowed with some massive exit velocities, and is now off to a hot start at Triple-A (.268/.464/.634, 191 wRC+). Yeah, it’s no wonder why folks want him up in the majors now while the Yankees’ offense continues to scuffle.

Scouting Notes

80-grade raw power. That’s the main thing you need to know about Gittens. We’re talking about Aaron Judge/Giancarlo Stanton-like exit velocities that push 120 MPH. Per FanGraphs, Gittens led the minors in average exit velocity in 2019 at 96 MPH.

One carrying tool, even at 80 on the 20-80 scale, doesn’t make a top prospect though. Gittens has never been, nor did he really deserve, to be anywhere near the team’s top-10 prospect lists at any publication. That’s not surprising in any way: older first-base types don’t get much prospect love. That said, FanGraphs has ranked him in back-to-back years, but that’s only because the site goes very deep in their organization prospect lists (46 this year, 52 last year).

Defensively, FG’s Eric Longenhagen didn’t note anything other than giving him 40 and 55 grades for fielding and throwing, respectively. Based on that, he sounds like he’d be tolerable but nothing special at first base. But again, with Gittens, offense is the name of the game. It’s also what the Yankees badly need in the Bronx.

Prospect Lists

Again, Gittens has gone unranked (but not necessarily unnoticed) at most publications:

  • Baseball America: NR
  • Baseball Prospectus: NR
  • FanGraphs: 46th
  • MLB Pipeline: NR

2021 Outlook

Gittens is already off to a good start in Scranton, and if that keeps up, he really won’t have much else to prove in the minor leagues. Strikeouts will always remain a big concern, but who exactly doesn’t strike out a ton nowadays?

We may see Gittens in the Bronx very soon. Aaron Boone has already acknowledged that the 27 year-old first baseman is on the team’s radar for a promotion, though it’s not clear what will be the tipping point to give him a call up. For the time being, all Gittens can do is continue to force the issue for as long as Luke Voit remains on the injured list.

My take

As I wrote last week, now’s the perfect time to give Gittens some run in the major leagues. Seriously, what more do the Yankees have to lose? Rougned Odor and Mike Ford simply aren’t cutting it. Those two, combined, have hit .173/.291/.353 (85 wRC+) in 175 plate appearances. Sure, Gittens *could* perform worse than that, but who cares? Why not take a chance on someone who could get hot for a month before big league pitchers figure him out?

Remember when Ford hit .274/.333/.619 (145 wRC+) with 11 homers in 123 plate appearances from August through September in 2019? That’s the sort of thing Gittens has potential to do, too. It wouldn’t shock me one bit for Gittens to tear up the majors before opposing teams determine the holes in his swing. Granted, there’s always a risk of him being completely overmatched, but again, that’s a risk worth taking at this point. Something needs to change with the Yankees’ lineup, and Gittens seems like the easiest band-aid for now.

Aside from team-need, I really hope Gittens gets a chance for his own sake. He’s been in the system for a long time and has done nothing but hit. He may not be a flashy five-tool prospect, but he certainly deserves a chance some time soon. And if it’s not with the Yankees this year, I hope another big league club takes a flyer on Gittens in 2022.

Advertisements

Previous

Game 54: Did you expect anything else?

Next

Game 55: Now That’s More Like It

19 Comments

  1. ExcitableBoy

    Even a brief run in which Gittens added 6-8 home runs before the league caught on would be welcome.

  2. MG309

    Who is the Yankees baserunning coach, Helen Keller? Actually she would do a better job than anyone now on the staff. Sanchez has the baseball IQ of a gerbil

    • Wire Fan

      You shouldn’t be insulting gerbils like that.

  3. Esteddardban Florial

    Urshella needs to be the every day SS. He’s made at least two plays that Gleyber would have thrown the ball into the stands. Put Gleyber at 2B, Odor or Andujar at 3rd and DJ at 1st.

  4. MG309

    No Stanton no Torres tonight how many scrubs does it take to lose a game? The answer coming soon on the YES post game report where the power of the bases loaded walk and runner on 3rd wild pitch will be discussed along with a bunch of worthless analytics

  5. MikeD

    Prospect Profile — Chris Gittens.

    He’s not Mike Ford. Let’s give him a shot.

  6. chip56

    The Yankees constantly say that they don’t have a problem with the team’s lack of LH balance in the lineup, yet also constantly force below-replacement level players like Ford and Odor into the lineup simply because they hit left handed. As a result, better options like Gittens stay in Scranton so that we can watch Mike Ford do Mike Ford things.

  7. What a great possible addition-he will likely K at least 30% of the time in the major leagues and every once in a while hit one so hard Michael Kay can have an orgasm over the ‘Exit Velo’ and Statcast data.

    Baseball is so f**ked up it’s beyond belief, it’s taken a sport that was the national pastime because of the beauty in the combination of execution and strategy and turned it into ‘Home Run or Nothing’ Derby where bat flips and poorly analyzed data are more important than playing the game the right way.

    I’m the wrong demographic for baseball anyway (74 years old) but I am a lifelong and (until now) passionate fan and that is rapidly coming to an end.

  8. Wire Fan

    Chris Gittens is missing the most important attribute… He is not left handed.

    Cashman and the analytics group are chasing lefty power. Bruce, Dietrich, Odor, Ford, there were rumors they were even kicking the tires on Josh Bell in the off-season. All crappy hitters… But left handed with power

    Cashman should be just getting hitters -regardless of right or lefty or even power. Just get guys who can hit a little. Chris Gittens probably isn’t the answer, but might as well try it out for 10 games and see what happens. If he hits he might even inject a little life into the rest of the team.

  9. Rob Refsnyder in 2015: 16 games, 860 OPS. Rob Refsnyder in 2021: 16 games, 864 OPS.

    • In 50 ABs-and every season in between his OPS has been under 600 except for 2019 when he didn’t play in the bigs at all-you aren’t really serious about this, are you?

  10. Kansas

    it seems like a no-brainer, and since we seem to have no brains…..

  11. David A Glazer

    Wasn’t he rated the best fielding 1B when he was in AA?

  12. With Gittens’s background on the mound, he can counter Mike Ford’s secret value as a mop-up pitcher in blow-outs.

  13. Brent Lawson

    Might as well, Yankees have a dismal minor league system. Except for “not clutch Judge”, it will take a while to move past the called 3rd strike with the bases loaded, bottom of the 9th, 2 out; the minor league system has yielded very little. Even Cashman’s overvalued prospects he has been reluctant to trade but has had to, have by and large have not done well.

    Last night there was an article about being sellers, it was difficult to read, it says ” We surrender “, maybe Hal has punted on the season, I don’t think so, I don’t think he cares about anything other than the botton line.

    I want Hal to sell the team and Yes to Bezos. Time for new blood.

  14. Frankie Ho-Tep

    yawn

  15. The Original Drew

    There is no harm in seeing what the Yankees have in Gittens since the Yankees are at the point of exhausting the little depth that they had and are now in the throw s*** at the wall and see what sticks, but I am not expecting much if/when the Yankees do decide to call him up.

  16. Eric Scheinkopf

    Will the Yankees even bother – they seem to LOVE Mike Ford and his occasional offense,

    • MikeD

      Occasional? Have we seen it since mid-September 2019?

      Relying too much on guys like Ford and Wade and now Odor (and insert names of other sub-standard players) the last few years is part of the story. The Yankees used to preach improving on the margins. Now they gives hundreds of ABs to replacement level and worse players. Ultimately, they’re a slave to the luxury tax, but they don’t seem to be managing effectively too it.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén