It’s been nine seasons since the Atlanta Braves called up high school phenom Brian McCann. He has since been to seven All-Star games and has won five Silver-Slugger Awards. Yet, there are still doubters who lack confidence in McCann’s ability to both hit and play the field.
His number’s behind the plate have undoubtedly declined over the past few years. McCann has not had a season with over 80 RBIs since 2009 when he batted in 94 runs. He also failed to break the 100-hit mark last season for just the first time since his rookie season. To the naked eye, these declining numbers are the product of the catcher’s diminishing ability. However, I am here to tell you that although McCann may not be the player he was in 2008, he is still one of the elite catchers in the game and the New York Yankees should be ecstatic to have him.
Since the retirement of Jorge Posada, the Yankees have been in dire need of a solid two-way catcher. The team came close with Russell Martin, who had a number of big hits and was excellent at calling games, but lets face it, he was no Jorge. Then came the debacle behind the plate that was the 2013 season. Chris Stewart, Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli platooned home plate throughout the season, with Stewart seeing most of the starts due to the lack of maturity of Romine, and the suspension/injury to Cervelli. The Yankees struggled immensely to find production from the catcher position throughout the season.
Stewart, Romine and Cervelli combined for a .229 batting average, eight homers and 43 RBIs. That is absolutely horrible. Brian McCann trumps that production even on his worst day. Last year, McCann hit .256 from behind the plate with 20 homers and 57 runs batted in. That’s during a season in which he was marred by injuries from the start of spring training and in a ballpark that is not nearly as friendly to hitters as Yankee Stadium is.
When projecting McCann’s future production in pinstripes, simply looking at his numbers from prior years will only do so much. For starters, he is switching over from the National League to the American League. This means manager Joe Girardi will have the option to DH him when the catcher is a little banged up or simply needs a rest. Spending some time in the DH role will help keep Brian’s bat hot, while minimizing the wear and tear that the catcher could accumulate throughout the course of the season.
Playing in Yankee Stadium versus Turner Field is also a change that should pay huge dividends for McCann. We have all seen what left handed hitters can do with that short porch in right field. Curtis Granderson had two seasons with over 40 home runs in that park. Johnny Damon even showed off some power while wearing pinstripes. There is no telling what B-Mac can do. Since the start of McCann’s second year in the league, he has had just one season in which he hit under 20 home runs. Now that he has changed into pinstripes, I expect no less than 30 homers a season. Although he most likely won’t hit for the power or average that Posada did throughout his career, there is no doubt that McCann will add a significant punch to a Bronx Bombers lineup that struggled to produce in 2013.
The contract may be a bit excessive for a 30-year-old catcher (five years, $85 mil), however, given the lack of production that the Yankees have seen at the position since the departure of Posada, it was a move that had to be made. With McCann, there is no longer a significant weakness in the lineup that teams look to exploit, as was the case during 2013. The 2014 New York Yankees are shaping up to be a dangerous team. One that fans should be excited for and opposing teams should fear. It’s time for Brian McCann to add a World Series ring to that long list of individual accolades he brings over from the Atlanta Braves.