Monday, February 21, 2011

Baseball's Best Kept Secret

In today's New York Times, Tyler Kepner wrote a piece about Major League Baseball's best kept secret, Braves catcher Brian McCann. 
"McCann, whose three-run double made him the All-Star Game’s most valuable player last summer, is a .289 career hitter with a .360 on-base percentage. He has hit between 18 and 24 homers in each full season, and he was 6 for 14 (.429) in the Braves’ first-round playoff loss to the San Francisco Giants last fall. 
Even so, he remains something of a secret. As catchers go, Mauer is king, and Yadier Molina of St. Louis and Buster Posey of San Francisco have caught the last out of the World Series recently. The Braves have been defined by starting pitching, Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox. Jason Heyward gained fame as a rookie last season; he did a photo shoot for Sports Illustrated last week.

McCann’s consistency obscures him nationally, but he said he did not care. The aces have retired, Jones is nearly 39 and Fredi Gonzalez has replaced Cox as manager after 21 years. The Braves are becoming McCann’s team."
As I mentioned in my piece titled All Underrated Team, McCann is plagued by the fact he doesn't display any skills that stand out from the rest of his peers.  Rather than being great at one particular skill, McCann is instead good at everything.  As a result, he tends to be overshadowed by flashier catcher like Mauer, Molina, and Posey. 

Still, the Braves can't be disappointed with a player that consistently produces 4-5 WAR per season out of the catcher position.  Catchers who produce at that level, whether underrated or properly rated, are incredibly tough to find.  At 27, McCann figures to have at least 4-5 seasons of solid production remaining.  With already 23.9 WAR under his belt, it wouldn't be surprising to see him eclipse the 50 WAR barrier, thus making him a viable Hall of Fame candidate. 

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