Braves catcher Brian McCann’s progress from offseason shoulder surgery has hit a bump and the six-time All Star’s return to game action is likely to be delayed more than initially expected. His original timetable had him slated for an early-April appearance in Atlanta’s lineup, but it looks more likely McCann will be sidelined for much of the season’s opening month.
This isn’t the worst news for Atlanta, as reports indicate McCann’s recovery isn’t stalling on the offensive end but with his ability to make throws from behind the plate. Considering he's never been someone who has earned a ton of value with his throwing arm, this is a best-case scenario as far as setbacks go.
From 2006 through 2011, McCann was by far the National League’s top catcher, and behind only Minnesota’s Joe Mauer in the quest to be baseball’s best. Over the aforementioned six-year span, Mauer posted 30.5 fWAR; McCann, 26.0. Dropping the caveat of position, McCann ranks 23rd among all hitters during this time frame in fWAR. While playing alongside a sure-fire Hall of Famer in Chipper Jones, McCann experienced a Hall of Fame-worthy peak.
Offensively, he was not just a great-hitting catcher. He was a great hitter period. In 823 games, McCann posted a .287/.359/.491 line to go with a 14.2% strikeout-rate and a 9.6 walk-rate. In 2012, while battling a torn labrum, he hit just .230/.300/.399 though his walk-rate and strikeout-rate were consistent with previous years. This consistency from his plate discipline hints that his struggles from a year ago were due to the injury, not a deterioration of his skills.
Despite his woes overall and a bum shoulder, McCann did manage 20 homers in 2012. With surgery and a cautious approach to his recovery, there’s no reason to think McCann won’t be at full strength in 2013, and in turn, surpassing last year’s home run total. Missing the first few weeks of the season may prevent McCann from making his seventh All Star team, but barring a setback, there’s no reason not to expect a return to All Star-level production at the plate.
stats courtesy of