Monday, May 06, 2013

Is the return of Brian McCann good news for the Braves?

The Atlanta Braves sit on top of the National League East with an impressive 18-12 record. They have a +30 run differential and are hitting the ball pretty well. Part of that hitting excellence has been the catching corp of Gerald Laird and Evan Gattis who have hit for a combined .864 OPS. But the Braves now have to make a tough decision because Brian McCann, their nearly forgotten former All Star catcher returns from the disabled list.

I would hate to lose either Laird or Gattis at this point. When Gattis plays, the Braves get good defense, good power with the bat and a 30% rate of throwing out potential base steal attempts. Gattis' one weakness is his lack of patience at the plate and has only walked six times.

Laird, on the other hand has not yet hit for power but has been an on-base machine for the Braves when he plays. Laird is not a great defensive catcher and has only thrown out one base steal attempt in ten tries.

So who should go to accommodate McCann? And should McCann automatically assume his starting duties? Those are good questions and it will be interesting to see what Atlanta does.

I think the answers are pretty obvious. McCann has been an elite catcher for seven seasons now and only had a sup-par last year. You have to give him a bye on that perhaps for injuries. McCann has it all with good power and patience at the plate. He is not a bad defensive catcher and while he is no Molina, he holds his own. You have to give McCann his starting role back.

Plus, McCann, though he has seemed to be around forever, is only 29 years old. That is young for a catcher these days.

After the decision is made to put McCann back to his usual #1 catcher place, the obvious choice after that is to keep Gattis and let Laird go. Yes, Gerald Laird is off to a very good start, but he should regress to his mean, which is no great shakes. Laird is a journeyman catcher who is not very good defensively. He is not a catcher you preserve for the future.

Evan Gattis is a catcher you preserve for the future. He is only 26 years old and has shown he belongs in the majors. He is a good fielding catcher and can learn a lot from McCann moving forward. I cannot see any point in sending Gattis to the minors despite the large jump he made getting from just 49 games in Double-A to the big leagues. Gattis should be kept when McCann returns tonight.

Will that happen? Today will tell us. Brian McCann returning to the Braves IS a good thing. Keeping Laird over Gattis would not be a good thing.

**Update** The Braves have optioned Tyler Pastornicky, thus, for now, delaying having to make a two-catcher decision.

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