Can James McCann provide the New York Mets with the fix they’ve needed at catcher for years?
We kick off our 2021 preview series today, looking at the catching situation of the New York Mets.
Over the last five seasons, the Mets have had some of the worst catcher production in major league baseball, both offensively and defensively.
The Mets are hoping that 2021 is going to be the year that everything turns around. Most of that hope is being placed in the newly signed James McCann, but Tomas Nido and Ali Sánchez shouldn’t be forgotten.
In December, the Mets kicked off their offseason by signing James McCann. The former White Sox catcher was the second-best catcher on the market after revitalizing his career in Chicago.
In 2019, McCann came out of nowhere to put together an elite offensive season. He slashed .273/.328/.460. He was among the best offensive catcher in MLB.
His defense lagged much farther behind. He ranked among the worst defensive catchers in MLB. He was 101st in Fielding runs above average adjusted, and 104th in framing runs. There’s an argument that he was worse defensively than even Wilson Ramos. Still, McCann was worth 2.2 fWAR.
In 2020, he was able to put everything together, though only for a short time. McCann played in 31 games, starting 27 of them at catcher.
McCann was even better offensively, slashing .289/.360/.536. More surprising, was McCann becoming a strong defensive catcher. He posted his best defensive analytics in his career and was finalist for an American League gold glove. As a result, McCann was on pace to be worth 6.4 fWAR in the same number of at-bats as 2019.
The Mets are betting on that extremely small sample being a glimpse into McCann’s future. It’s a huge gamble, but one they believe will pay off. If it does, the Mets will have one of MLB’s best catchers on a cheap contract. If it doesn’t the Mets are stuck with another Wilson Ramos, except this time for the next four years.
Tomas Nido will reprise his role as the Mets’ primary backup catcher. A role he’s held for a few years now.
Nido always provides at least average defense, but the offense has never really been there from him. That changed a little bit in 2020, though in only seven games. Nido hit .292/.346/.583. Then the Mets promptly replaced him as the backup with Rene Rivera and Robinson Chirinos. A confusing move at the time, made only more confusing now.
Nido comes back in 2021 hoping to build off that performance. After all, he’ll be playing quite a bit. McCann has never made 120 starts in a season, so Nido will have a decent workload.
The Mets are hoping they never have to rely on Nido as a starting option. If they do though, they should have enough offense elsewhere in the lineup to make up for it.
The Mets made the surprising decision to go with Patrick Mazeika over Ali Sanchez as their primary depth catcher this season. Mazeika, 27 years old, has never played above AA.
He’s a bad defensive catcher, and has seen time at first base as a result. His bat was supposed to be his carrying tool, but that’s failed him the last few years. He slashed .231/.328/.363 in AA in 2018 and .245/.312/.426 in 2019.
Mazeika likely won’t see much time this season, but he’s the primary depth option. If injuries hit the Mets at catcher he’d likely be the first guy called up.
If he’s seeing any extensive playing time in 2021 then something went very wrong.