Came up in June when Estrada and Perez were both out, promoted straight from AA. Brian rapidly passed Brayan Pena as the regular when Estrada was out, and outplayed the latter when he returned, taking the majority of the catching duties. John Smoltz in particular was a fan of him as a reciever and more or less adopted him as his personal catcher even when Estrada was at his healthiest.
McCann was terrific in June, hitting for a very high average with some power. He slumped badly in July, but recovered in August and September, where his percentages were in the middle of that range — not coincidentally, right about how he finished for the season. In a down year for catching in the NL, he was probably better offensively than any regular catcher in the league, his final line being .278/.345/.400. He hit very well against lefties (.333/.385/.556) but in only 36 at-bats. Defensively, he’s still a work in progress. He seemed to block the plate well (a big problem for Estrada after the Erstad Incident) but couldn’t control the running game (though he was better than Pena).
With Estrada traded, the Braves have committed to McCann as their regular catcher in 2006. A sophomore slump would hurt the team a lot, but I don’t really expect one. Long-term, I like McCann a lot. 21-year-old catchers who can hold their own in AA are valuable commodities. Ones who can hold their own in the majors are precious commodities. When Ivan Rodriguez was 21, he hit .273/.315/.412. When Mike Piazza was 21, he hit .250/.279/.390 — in the Florida State League. Every trade the Braves pursued this year seemingly had the other team asking for McCann and quickly being laughed at.
He might stall out, which happens to catchers, but if he just hits like he did last year he’d be a plus at the position. Another possibility is that he’ll get moved off catcher by the rise of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and move to first base. In that case, he might become a much better hitter. Some people compared him to Carlos Delgado in the minors; that’s a pretty tall order, but he’s a good hitter. Hits some homers a long way and has as much raw power as anyone in the organization, not excepting Andruw Jones or Jeff Francoeur. Slugging .487 in Myrtle Beach at age 20 — as McCann did in 2004 — is a major accomplishment. Then Saltalamacchia came through slugging .519 at the same age… If he stays a catcher, McCann might not get any better as a hitter and still wind up second all-time (behind Yogi) for homers by a lefthanded-hitting catcher.