There can be little argument that Braves catcher Brian McCann has been the best hitting catcher in the National League since taking over as the full-time starter in 2006.
Since that time, he ranks first in the major leagues among catchers in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage. He’s also tops in the National League and third in the majors at his position in batting average and on-base percentage (and that’s if now-DH Victor Martinez is included).
All that said, McCann may just now be entering his prime. At 27, he’s on pace for career-bests in numerous categories, and in June he posted a .342 batting average with eight home runs and 18 RBIs.
While the rest of the offense has been anemic at times, McCann leads the Braves and all MLB catchers in just about every major offensive category.
And while he may never be a Gold Glove candidate behind the plate, coaches and teammates laud his ability to call a game, as well as his work to improve on defense.
With McCann anchoring the lineup and David Ross’ solid backup work, the Braves are among the major leagues’ best at catcher.
Contract terms: 6 years/$26.8M through 2012; $12M team option for 2013
2011 stats: .314, 14 HR, 47 RBIs, .388 OBP, .527 SLG
Career: .291, 126 HR, 513 RBIs (in 7th season)
Notes: McCann’s contract escalates each year, paying him $6.5M this season and $8.5M in 2012 before the team has the option to pick up his deal for $12M in 2013. McCann will be 30 years old by the time this contract expires, a time when the wear and tear of the position often starts to take its toll on catchers. Even so, the Braves have reason to be optimistic. Some of best hitting catchers of the last 20 years (notably Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza) have remained among the best at the position deep into their 30s.
ON THE BENCH
Contract terms: 2 years/$3.25M through 2012
2011 stats: .286, 3 HR, 10 RBIs in 18 games
Career: .235, 72 HR, 212 RBIs, thrown out 39 percent of base stealers (in 10th season)
Notes: Ross is a good fit for the Braves; he’s happy with his role as a back-up and he’s good at it. He’s a talented defensive catcher and is a solid contributor on offense when called on to give McCann the occasional day off.
Though he’s getting up in age, he’s yet to show signs of slowing.
IN THE MINORS
Notes: As the only other catcher on the 40-man roster, Boscan is the Braves’ No. 3, but not a viable long-term candidate, even for a backup spot.
Notes: Splits time with Boscan at Gwinnett, but is the better hitter, posting a .267 average and two home runs in 40 games this season.
Notes: The top prospect at catcher in the organization, Bethancourt was recently promoted to High-A Lynchburg after hitting .303 at Rome this season.
Notes: The North Georgia College & State University product got off to a solid start in the Gulf Coast League after being drafted in the 19th round in June.
Current staff: A+ | Organizational depth: B+
The only knock on the overall grade is that there’s not a MLB-ready catcher in the minor league system. Boscan is the third catcher on the 40-man roster and has two career at-bats in the major leagues. Other than that, the Braves are sitting pretty at backstop.