Stefan Gartrell will return to AAA Gwinnett in 2012, providing the team a powerful cleanup hitter while waiting for his chance in Atlanta.
A couple of weeks into the 2011 season, the Braves plucked Stefan Gartrell off waivers from the White Sox and he rewarded them by providing Gwinnett with a consistent, powerful cleanup hitter, putting up a .260 average and .834 OPS while clubbing out 28 doubles, and setting single season Gwinnett records with 25 homers and 91 RBI. He was originally drafted by the White Sox out of San Fransisco University in the 31st round of the 2006 draft and showed consistent pop at every level before busting out in AA in 2009 by hitting .285 with a .892 OPS, 20 doubles, 19 homers and 70 RBI for Birmingham.
In the last two plus years at AAA, Gartrell has posted a slash line of .259/.325/.475/.800, walking in 7.5% of his plate appearances, and striking out in 24.5% of his plate appearances. He just turned 28 years old, so he's essentially the hitter he's going to be, a slugger who's going to strike out a lot if given a chance in the Majors. He has a strong, powerful frame, standing 6'3" and weighing in at 230. Like most sluggers, Gartrell can succumb to getting fooled and taking huge whiffs, but he's shown himself capable of hitting enough at AAA to remain productive. In the outfield, he plays almost exclusively in right field, though is just as capable of playing left, but is at best an average defender. His bulk makes him slow to the ball, but he makes up for it by positioning himself well and reading the ball off the bat quickly. He does have an above average, accurate arm.
If Gartrell is going to get a chance in Atlanta, it's likely to come off the bench, and for the moment Matt Diaz is the team's right handed hitting corner outfielder off the pine. It's likely the team's last bench spot will go to a speedy outfielder who can play center field, like Jose Constanza or Luis Durango, so there's little chance Gartell is going to break camp on Atlanta's roster. Still, after a year in the organization they know his value, and he can further showcase his skills during Spring Training, so that if an injury or two arises during the year, he could provide a nice power bat off Atlanta's bench.