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James McCann Has Lost His Progress

For Mets catcher James McCann, 2019 represented a career-altering triumph over the struggles that had plagued him through his first five big-league seasons in Detroit. With the Tigers, McCann’s abject lack of success at the plate led him to yo-yo between batting stances and approaches. In June 2016, he replaced his leg kick with a quieter front-foot step, struck out in a career high 29.2% of his at-bats, and tweaked his stance again in the offseason. McCann closed the book on his rookie contract with a 2018 season from hell — an abysmal triple-slash of .220/.267/.314, and a wRC+ of 56, good for second-worst among all hitters with at least 450 plate appearances.

2018 Worst wRC+ (450+ PA)
Player PA wRC+
Chris Davis 522 46
James McCann 457 56
Alcides Escobar 531 59
Scott Kingery 484 61
Billy Hamilton 556 68
JaCoby Jones 467 68
Adam Engel 463 68
Wilmer Difo 456 71
Jonathan Lucroy 454 72
Victor Martinez 508 73

Things opened up (literally) for McCann in Chicago. After signing a one-year, $2.5 million “prove it” deal with the White Sox, McCann’s most radical tweak struck gold. Opening his stance and bringing his hands closer to load unlocked an entirely different hitter in the once-struggling backstop. McCann became a legit power threat, popping 18 homers in just 118 games, and his wRC+ jumped to 108, placing him eighth among all catchers with at least 300 PAs. He continued this trend in 2020’s short-season madness: a slash of .289/.360/.460, a wRC+ within the top-40 of all hitters with as many at-bats, and even a positive grade as a framer. Read the rest of this entry »