James McCann joined the New York Mets this offseason with many hopeful he can end a long-overdue streak of poor starting catchers. Even though Wilson Ramos hit well in 2019 and we did get some occasional production out of Travis d’Arnaud for a brief time, the Mets have been without a truly productive catcher since Paul Lo Duca left the club.
McCann will look to turn it all around this year both behind the plate and with both heels dug into the batter’s box.
Expectations are high for McCann in year one with the Mets. A superb defender who may have also found his swing in the past two seasons, many are hopeful he’ll put together an All-Star caliber season in 2021. I’m not quite as optimistic. If McCann can give the Mets anything close to what he did as a member of the Chicago White Sox on the offensive side of the ball, it’s gravy on the biscuit.
Mets need James McCann to save runs, not create them
I think everyone knows why the Mets coveted McCann this winter. He’s a plus-defender whose reputation working with pitchers is a positive one. After two years of Ramos performing poorly behind the plate, the front office thought it was time to go in a new direction.
McCann’s two years in Chicago definitely lift what many believe he can accomplish in New York. In his 149 games with the White Sox, McCann slashed .276/.334/.474 with 25 home runs in 587 plate appearances.
This was much better than what he did in parts of five seasons with the Detroit Tigers, hitting .240/.288/.366 with only 40 home runs in 1,658 trips to the plate.
Unless it was all just a fluke and the new baseballs MLB has planned for 2021 really play a factor, we should expect McCann to at least be better than his Tigers days.
Do the Mets need much offense from McCann?
If McCann left his hot bat in Chicago, the Mets can survive. The projected number eight hitter this season, McCann’s offense isn’t what earned him $40 million this offseason. The lifetime .249/.300/.394 slash line with enough power to knock a home run total somewhere in the teens is about what we should expect.
Among the possible areas to improve upon, McCann will need to learn to become a little more patient of a hitter. In the National League without a DH, he has a job to protect the pitcher’s spot in the lineup. Sometimes this means taking a walk. It’s something he hasn’t done much throughout his career.
McCann should surely see his end-of-season walk totals go up—even just a little bit—because of the occasional intentional free pass just to get to the pitcher’s spot. In his career, McCann has only been handed first base freely once via an intentional walk.
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Since becoming a big leaguer, McCann’s career has not been defined by what he did with a bat in his hands. First and foremost, he’s a catcher. Consider a great year at the plate as the succulent liquid topping on a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast.