Brian McCann has been playing in Rome recently as part of a rehab assignment after recovering from a surgery he had in October to repair his right shoulder. According to Mark Bowman of MLB, McCann could be back with the Atlanta Braves as soon as next week. If he isn’t hindered by anything as he continues his assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett — starting today — he could be with the big league club at some point during the series against Cincinnati.
Many people have wondered what the club is going to do with McCann, given the performances of Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird.
Laird was signed this off season to catch while McCann was out, and serve as the team’s back-up when he returned. He has served primarily as a back-up to Evan Gattis so far this year, and has performed well in the role. In 33 plate appearances, Laird is hitting .333/.419/.407 with a .370 wOBA.
Gattis has become the new fan favorite due to his incredible personal story, as well as being one of the only hitters (along with Justin Upton) to start the year off in a strong way. In Gattis’ 84 plate appearances, his triple slash is sitting at .250/.310/.566. Of his 19 hits, 12 have been for extra bases (six doubles and six home runs).
Despite the strong start, however, Gattis seems to be cooling down lately.
The question of what to do with McCann seems to be one with a fairly obvious answer, in my opinion. As soon as he is ready to go, he should slide right back into the starting role. Gerald Laird should remain on the team as the primary back-up catcher, and Evan Gattis should be moved down to the minors to try and become a more polished hitter.
There are those that would argue that Gattis’ bat needs to stay on the bench, but if this is truly McCann’s last season in Atlanta, I would prefer “El Oso Blanco” to get as many at-bats as he can this year.
As far as this year goes, however, there should be no question that Brian McCann is the starting catcher. When healthy, McCann is the most consistent hitting catcher in baseball. His past two years have been plagued by injury, but in the six years before that he is a .289/.358/.481 hitter. For his career, he is a .279/.351/.475 hitter who averages just over 19 homers per season.
Not only is he a great hitter, but he is an above-average catcher on the defensive side of the ball as well, managing pitchers well, and being an excellent pitch framer to make up for his below-average arm.
When McCann comes back, the team will be better off because of his return. Laird should continue to serve as the back-up and Gattis should be moved down to Triple-A. I have a feeling that Fredi Gonzalez is going to want to keep him on the bench as a pinch-hitter and “outfielder” outfielder though, which is a almost a joke at this point.
More at-bats would be better for Gattis, but at the same time it’s hard to fault a manager for wanting a +.500 slugging% hitter to call on. Do you think keeping Gattis on the bench is worth it for the team, or will it hurt his development as a major league hitter? Also, let us know what your thoughts are regarding the catching situation entirely.