Upon seeing this news, my initial response was that he was going to be an absolute beast in New York, especially in the HR department. Turner Field is a cavernous park, while Yankee Stadium is a very live park for left-handed hitters. Keep in mind that even in Atlanta, McCann has been a very strong offensive catcher. Look at his three most recent seasons.
So, is a move to the Yankees actually as good as it seems?
What I like?
We’ve already gone over how much more hitter-friendly New York is than Atlanta. For a guy like McCann whose value is mostly based in power, you can’t help but wonder what kind of a jump he’s going to see. I won’t sit here and say that McCann will get to 30 homers or anything like that, as he’s never hit more than 24.
But remember, he had 20 last season in only 356 at-bats. That may be a bit of an overly generous pace to extrapolate over another 100 at-bats, but just for the sake of argument, let’s say that we can do that here:
- 20 Homers in 356 at-bats is one in every 17.8 at-bats.
- In 456 at-bats, that works out to somewhere between 25 and 26 home runs.
Even if you’d rather deal with his career pace, we’re talking about one homer in every 21.9 at-bats. That pace at 470 at-bats would work out to between 21-22 homers. That’s a fairly reasonable clip, and it’s not hard to think that McCann will hit a few extra homers over 470 at-bats to get to around 25. While I won’t predict that he’ll hit 30, it wouldn’t surprise me.
The reason for that is not only the park, but moving from the National League to the American League. McCann has had some injuries in recent years. From 2006-2010, he averaged 139 games played per season, playing 130 or more each time. In the three years since, he’s never hit 130 and averaged 117 games per year. It makes sense; catcher is a grueling position and unlike people like Buster Posey and Joe Mauer, McCann has never played first base. The only time he’s ever been in the lineup as anything other than a catcher is in AL parks in interleague play.
Now, he’s going to have more than a few cracks a year at being a DH. Granted, when you throw in other older players who’ve dealt with injuries like Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and (possibly) Alex Rodriguez, Joe Girardi may need to cycle the DH a little bit, but McCann will certainly be a part of that.
Getting a few extra days away from the catching position not only decreases McCann’s chances of injury, but will make him a better hitter when he’s in the lineup, especially late in the year.
What I Don’t Like
The only thing I don’t like about signing with the Yankees specifically is how many questions surround the offense heading into 2014.
- Will Robinson Cano be back?
- What kind of suspension is Alex Rodriguez going to have and even if he’s there all year, how effective will he be?
- How effective and healthy will will Derek Jeter be?
- How effective and healthy will Mark Teixeira be?
- Can Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki be counted on all year?
- Will Brett Gardner be traded?
- Who else will the Yankees sign? Carlos Beltran?
I think McCann should be in the .250-.260 range and he should be good for about 20-25 homers, and those are both conservative guesses. But how many RBI chances will he get? Once on base, how many runs will he score?
It’s hard to imagine the Yankees not fielding a good offensive team. I know they were sub-par with the bats in 2013, but that’s just not what the Yankees do and signing McCann makes me think that they’re serious about improving the offense. But at this very moment, they’re a team with a lot of uncertainty.
What I Ultimately Think
The Yankees aren’t going to take last season lying down. They may not be the offensive juggernaut that anyone between the ages of 10 and 100 is used to seeing, but they’re not going to be bad.
If Brian McCann can stay healthy, he stands in great position to be one of fantasy baseball’s best catchers in 2014. We’ll know more about who’s going to be around him when we do our team previews and draft kit so ultimately there will be fewer questions around the team come draft time. But for right now, the top of the catcher position just got a little stronger.