New York Yankees’ catcher Brian McCann struggled in the first year of his 5-year/$85M contract, but now in the third year he could be the biggest reason the team returns to dominance.
After all of the All Star years in Atlanta, it was thought that the veteran catcher would thrive in a lefties’ ballpark that is Yankees Stadium. He did pick up his power numbers, but that wasn’t enough. In 2015, there was a much larger amount of success for McCann, but it isn’t anywhere near his peak. Going into the third year of his contract, I have a feeling Yankees fans could be in for a near-MVP season from McCann.
Let’s go back to the first year of his monster contract in 2014. While he did hit 23 homers, he only had 115 hits. That number is bigger than his 108 last year, but he had a career-high 26 homers in 2015, along with a career-tying 96 RBIs. He totaled 20 more strikeouts last season than in 2014, but that’s the price that comes with adding extra power to your at-bats. With the rise in XBHs and RBIs, you’ll take the increase in strikeouts.
The focal point in this is something that has hindered McCann’s success deeply since becoming a Yankee, and that is the shift. McCann and Mark Teixeira, both prisoners of the lefty-pull-hitter shift, have had their stats cut into tremendously in recent years because of it. Multiple hitters have, as it’s been a growing aspect of the game. I know, it must seem like you’ve heard this topic countless times when talking about McCann, and Yankees fans are nothing close to patient (Neither am I). However, I understood it would take probably a year or two for hitters like McCann to get used to the shift and try to beat it. You have to think this is a new part of the game, and veteran hitters like McCann, who have been able to slide easy singles between the second and first baseman since they were younger, just can’t anymore.
Come last season, I did see McCann try and target that third base line much more often, if he wasn’t trying to knock the ball into the second deck. So far in Spring Training, I’m seeing him nearly devote his whole Spring campaign to it. For a hitter like McCann, it’s much harder for him to go against the shift and place the ball in a totally opposite direction, rather than a Buster Posey could. Posey is slender compared to McCann and that does make it harder for a ‘beefy’ guy like himself.
With McCann’s speed most of these are only going to be singles, but it’s better than Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury being stranded on base because of the shift (which has happened an exhausting amount of times since McCann has come to the Bronx). This has been said over and over again, since McCann even mentioned trying to go against the shift, but now the words could be coming to life.
It’s no overreaction that if he does start beating the shift at least once or twice a game, McCann could be an MVP candidate. He’s simply that good of an offensive catcher and at a sweet spot in the Yankees’ lineup, where he could do unreal amounts of damage, should he beat these shifts. Also, running on McCann the second half of last year was almost impossible. He may be 32, but the signs of a career year are in the making for him.
Whether or not he can make this carry on into April, I expect McCann to have at the least, an all-star year. I also believe his success is second most important in the lineup, behind Jacoby Ellsbury. Both players have more to prove than others. Age isn’t an issue for McCann and if he stays fairly healthy throughout the season, I feel he will be a huge piece in the Yankees attempt to catch number 28.