James McCann enters the 2016 season as the unquestioned starter behind the dish for the Detroit Tigers. Expect more solid play from the catcher this season.
However, one of the few bright spots was the emergence of rookie catcher James McCann. In 114 games played, the 25-year-old hit .264 with 18 doubles, five triples, seven home runs and 41 RBI. The catcher also showed significant potential on defense, throwing out 41% of runners, while committing a grand total of zero errors.
At only 25, McCann seems to be entrenched in Detroit as the backstop for the next seven-10 years. As a rookie, he flashed leadership ability. It probably isn’t a stretch to assume that the former second-round pick will function as a strong locker room presence as long as he’s a Tiger.
In addition to have a future as a leader of the team, manager Brad Ausmus also thinks that McCann could develop even more on offense. Ausmus recently was quoted in a story that ran in the Detroit Free Press as saying “I don’t know if it will happen this year…and I hate to put a number on it. I don’t know if he will get there, but I think he will be a guy who hits 15 go 20 homers at some point in his career.”
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In terms of a more short-term outlook, there are a number of different opinions as to how McCann will perform during the 2016 season. Baseball Reference projects 414 plate appearances for the catcher, to go along with a .266 batting average, .711 OPS, 18 doubles, four triples, nine home runs, 42 RBI and two stolen bases. Meanwhile, FanGraphs’ ZiPS projector thinks McCann will log 458 plate appearances, while hitting .253 with a .648 OPS, 22 doubles, three triples, six home runs and 41 RBI.
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While Jarrod Saltalamacchia will play some games at catcher, McCann will be the unquestioned starter. He will likely hit seventh in a potent Tigers offense, behind Nick Castellanos and ahead of either Jose Iglesias or the team’s starting center fielder (depending on if Cameron Maybin or Anthony Gose starts that day).
Because of the fact that Detroit’s offense will be one of the best run scoring units in all of Major League Baseball, McCann could see an increase in offensive production. A batting average around .260 to go along with 20 doubles, 10 home runs and 50 RBI seems about right.
In terms of production, the catcher is unlikely to regress at the plate, increasing the likelihood that he’ll improve. The power department is probably the most significant area where the improvement will come. Most players get stronger as their careers progress, therefore they hit for more power the longer they’re in the league. McCann should be no exception to that. What’s more, the catcher should continue to excel on defense.