Brian McCann‘s first season in the Bronx has been called a disaster. McCann himself has called his performance “horrible.” His team is under .500, mired in third place in the American League East. Big things were expected of the 30-year-old backstop when he signed a five year, $85 million contract to leave Atlanta and play for the Yankees in the off-season. His left-handed power swing was expected to take advantage of the short porch at Yankee Stadium. He would help anchor a revamped lineup destined to make the abysmal offense of 2013 a distant memory. With the season half over, none of that has happened. So there is no chance that McCann could spend the All Star Break in Minneapolis suiting up for the American League, right? Not so fast.
McCann is actually third in the American League voting for catchers. He trails only Baltimore’s Matt Wieters and Oakland’s Derek Norris. Wieters is on the DL and will not be able to play in the game as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. McCann is about a half million votes down to Wieters in the final days of voting, but still could conceivably catch Wieters, since Wieters is not playing and Norris plays for a small market team (albeit the team with the best record in the AL.)
There is also the possibility the McCann could be named as an All-Star reserve. Assuming Wieters holds on to his vote lead and is named a starter, two or three other catchers will need to be named to the team. When comparing McCann only to other catchers in the AL, his numbers don’t look quite as bad as you might think. The .224 average is still terrible, but he does have ten home runs, good for second in the league among catchers, and leads all AL catchers with 37 RBI. His defense is also very highly regarded throughout the league, and has a reputation as the best pitch framer in baseball.
So if three catchers are named to the squad after Wieters is elected, which three will be picked? Salvador Perez from the Royals is my pick to replace Wieters as the starter. Perez has already amassed a 3.0 WAR to go along with his .283 average, ten homers and 30 RBI. Norris might be an interesting pick of a player who is a star is on the rise, but has had only 175 at bats this season as he platoons with John Jaso. He has hit well this season, however, to the tune of a .309 average, eight home runs and 35 RBI. That leaves the last spot open for one of several backstops who are all lumped together. Minnesota’s Kurt Suzuki has the highest average (.309) but only two long balls. Seattle’s Mike Zunino has the power with the most home runs (12) but an average even lower than McCann’s (.223). Yan Gomes and Dioner Navarro have also put up similar numbers.
There is no Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Posada or Joe Mauer in this years crop of catchers. There is just a group of similarly flawed backstops with similar numbers to chose from. There are other factors in play, of course. Perhaps Suzuki will make the team as the lone Twins representative with Joe Mauer going on the DL. If I was in Red Sox Manager John Farrell’s shoes and was tasked with creating the roster for the American League, I would probably choose Perez, Norris and either McCann or Navarro for the last spot. There just isn’t much separation between the players. But the fact that McCann is even in the conversation for trip to Target Field in two weeks shows how sparse production has become at the catching position.