Perhaps it's not discussed enough, but with more teams moving into a shared role at catcher, plate appearances and counting statistics continue to decline at the position. Getting one with a majority share of playing time can be as pivotal as targeting the top tier among catchers. Keeping this in mind, James McCann signed a four-year contract with the Mets due in part to his rebound in production the last two seasons with the White Sox, but more importantly, his ability to handle a pitching staff.

Case in point, White Sox pitchers recorded a 2.82 ERA with McCann behind the plate over his 245.2 innings last season. However, when Yasmani Grandal caught, the team ERA rose to 4.74 over his 271.1 innings of work. Since there is not much disparity in their total innings, the Mets targeted McCann to take over an already strong staff but if he can sync up with them in a similar manner, it may add much needed wins to the 2021 season as a result.

In terms of his output as a hitter in 2020, McCann played in 31 games accruing 111 plate appearances with 20 runs, seven home runs, 15 RBI, one stolen base and a .289/.360/.536 slash line. Time and again, accepting small sample size returns from last year proves to be a mistake. McCann obliterated left-handed pitching .429 over 36 plate appearances with a robust 1.242 on-base plus slugging percentage. It should also be noted McCann started 2019 hot then faded as the season wore on and he scuffled down the stretch last season hitting .200 (8-for-40) his last 14 contests but launched four of his home runs in it.

According to Statcast, McCann produced 69 batted ball events with six barrels (8.7-percent), a 90.5 MPH average exit velocity and 47.8 hard hit percentage. His sweet spot percentage rose to 40.6-percent but his expected numbers hint at regression going forward. McCann notched a .259 expected batting average (xBA), .455 expected slugging (xSLG) and .329 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA).

Viewing his plate discipline metrics, McCann's in zone numbers almost aligned with 2019 and he cut his chase percentage, chase contact rate while reducing his swing percent. Keeping his whiff percentage stable helps. When forecasting his upcoming season, weighing the gains by McCann in Chicago versus his past results come with a balance.

Within his batted ball data, McCann generated a 39.1 ground ball percentage, 21.7 fly ball percent and 33.3 line drive rate. Transitioning to the National League and a new ballpark could affect his power. Of McCann's 27 measured home runs on Statcast, he'd project to hit 25 expected home runs if they occurred in Citi Field.

Taking all of this into account, expanding the sample size helps view McCann's results. First, here's his numbers from the second half of 2019 when his batting average dipped combined with last year:

  • McCann 2H 2019-through-2020: 86 games, 336 plate appearances, 44 runs, 16 home runs, 45 RBI, one stolen base; .246/.307/.452, 6 BB%, 30.4 K%, .207 ISO, .322 wOBA

Among catchers with at least 250 plate appearances in this time frame, McCann ranks tied for seventh in home runs with Christian Vázquez (438 plate appearances) and Austin Nola (422 plate appearances) but with much fewer times at the plate. Do not lose sight of McCann's increased strikeout rate along with the reduction of on-base percentage. It helps properly identify his skill set. Check out his line drives and fly balls with his new ballpark in New York as the backdrop:

Over the last three years, he's one of eight catchers with at least 1,000 plate appearances and comes with these statistics:

  • McCann Last 3 Years: 270 games, 1,056 plate appearances, 113 runs, 33 home runs, 114 RBI, five stolen bases; .252/.305/.401, 6.2 BB%, 26.9 K%, .150 ISO, .304

This sample features a slightly better average with less power along with a lower weighted on-base average (wOBA). Part of McCann's value in fantasy exposes itself in playing time enhancing his counting numbers compared to his peers.

With this in mind, here's his projections from three different systems:

  • McCann 2021 Steamer projection: 102 games, 427 plate appearances, 45 runs, 14 home runs, 50 RBI, three stolen bases; .228/.289/.383, 6.9 BB%, 28.4 K%, .155 ISO, .287 wOBA
  • McCann 2021 ZiPS projection: 114 games, 434 plate appearances, 47 runs, 14 home runs, 51 RBI, two stolen bases; .239/.297/.390, 6 BB%, 28.6 K%, .151 ISO, .294 wOBA
  • McCann THE BAT X projection: 110 games, 463 plate appearances, 54 runs, 16 home runs, 54 RBI, three stolen bases; .238/.299/.396, 6.9 BB%, 28.2 K%, .158 ISO, .301 wOBA

It's apparent each system does not foresee McCann reaching his peak from 2020's truncated season. However, predicting his batting average to crater below his second half of 2019 through 2020 or his last three years totals may be a bit aggressive. It's a balance. Based on the Statcast data mined above sprinkled in with knowing there's some streakiness to McCann's profile, THE BAT X proves the most likely scenario above. If McCann keeps his average between .245-to-.255, his 2021 season becomes a bit more alluring. Pay for 16 home runs, stay ahead of the competition if he hits .250-plus and remember to target him in DFS versus southpaws.

Statistical Credits: - Game Notes

ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski

THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Carty