MLB Atlanta Braves

What to Expect from Atlanta Braves’ Catcher Brian McCann?

Brian McCann Atlanta Braves

Anthony Gruppuso-USA Today Sports

Brian McCann will not have the luxury of a spring training to get ready for the 2013 season. McCann is still recovering from his off-season shoulder surgery, and I would guess both he and the Atlanta Braves are eyeing an April 16 return to the lineup – even though sitting out an extra 15 days would do a lot of good for him and the team.

The return in mid-April would allow the Braves to start the year with him on the 15-day disabled list to give them an extra roster spot as he heals. Having a healthy McCann will be critical in just how far this Braves’ offense goes as the season progresses.

2012 Recap: McCann dealt with the shoulder issue as well as hamstring tendinitis during the 2012 season. This clearly impacted his offense as he struggled in putting up a .230 batting average, .300 OBP and .698 OPS, along with 20 home runs and 67 RBIs.

Here’s some perspective on his 2012 season – he posted career lows in average, OBP, OPS, RBIs, runs (44) and doubles (14). He also didn’t make the National League All-Star team for the first time since he became the everyday Braves’ catcher.

2013 Outlook: The 2013 season offers a fresh start for McCann. It is possible that the 29-year old catcher began the normal decline in production that catchers inevitably face as their careers lengthen. However, the significant drops from his 2011 to 2012 season in average (40 points), OBP (51) and OPS (119) indicates the season was most likely an anomaly.

It’s worth noting that this is a contract year for McCann. The Georgia native would love to stay in Atlanta, but the assumption is the Braves will be unwilling to pay him what he’ll demand with top prospect Christian Bethancourt waiting in the minors. In either case, he will be looking to showcase what made him an All-Star in six straight seasons to cash in somewhere at the season’s conclusion.

How the Braves insert McCann into the lineup will be interesting to watch over the first few weeks. Will they let him take over as soon as he’s healthy, or ease him back while starting Gerald Laird and Evan Gattis?

I expect McCann will come back in his first few games and start hot purely on adrenaline. Then the lack of spring training will show up and lead to struggles in timing and consistency.

That will come back with time, though, and McCann should have a rebound season as long as the shoulder is healthy. He may not return to the All-Star Game, but I think Braves’ fans will see more of the old McCann rather than the 2012 version this season.