Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at the Atlanta Braves roster and outlook for the 2009 season, position by position. With pitchers and catchers set to report soon, we will start with them. This week we will look at the catcher position for the Atlanta Braves.
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Brian McCann will again come into the season as the Atlanta Braves starting catcher. McCann, after an injury in '07 that he just couldn't seem to get rid of completely, was back last year and as good as ever. He seemed out of shape at the beginning of the year but proved healthy with the bat consistently throughout.
McCann batted .301 with 23 home runs and 87 RBI. Considering the shots McCann was taking from critics during and directly after the season you would think he had an off year.
I beg to differ, as McCann set career highs in games played (145), runs scored (68), hits (153), extra base hits (66, including 1 triple), walks (57), stolen bases (5), and total bases (266).
How can improvement and progress be looked at as anything other than what it is? However, we hear fantasy analysts saying on ESPN.com that drafting McCann in the first round would be foolish for the 2009 season.
I disagree on the basis that he's one of the best offensive catchers in the game. McCann will simply need to pick up where he left off at the plate. Behind the plate is another matter.
McCann has had well documented troubles throwing out runners throughout his career. Last year he came into camp feeling good about his mechanics throwing out of the crouch.
However, his new found release, while quicker, took too much velocity off of the throw. He started to go back to his old mechanics toward the end of the year and seemed to show improvement.
He had plenty of practice as teams, realizing his troubles, attempted to steal 120 times last season.
McCann has reportedly lost 20 pounds since the end of last season, which should improve his footwork and, in turn, his release to second base. If McCann could get his caught stealing percentage above the 20's (22 percent for his career) there's no reason people shouldn't consider him one of the best all-around catchers in the game.
The backup catcher to McCann this season will, in all likelihood, be David Ross. Signed this past off season, Ross will bring some excellent defensive skills along with some pop at the plate. Ross is relatively unknown around here, but his stats speak for themselves.
During the 2006-2007 seasons, Ross had 38 homers in 558 at-bats. That's pretty impressive considering he only gets about 5-10 at-bats per week.
The stat that will help the Braves in the 2009 season the most is perhaps his caught stealing percentage. Ross threw out 47 percent of base runners last season and, while keeping this percentage with the Braves, can maybe give McCann a few pointers.
If the backup catcher spot winds up not going to Ross, the position will likely go the former Georgia Bulldog, Clint Sammons.
This is unlikely as Sammons doesn't have the experience, arm, or bat Ross has. The only thing Sammons has on Ross is perhaps calling a better game and receiving with a quiet glove (Eddie Perez-esque).
2009 Overall Outlook:
The catcher position for the Braves in 2009 seems to be intact with Brian McCann at the helm. If he can keep his numbers, and three straight All-Star appearances suggests he certainly can, and Ross can capitalize on some of the promise that he's shown in recent years, the Braves will be all set and ready for a very productive year out of the catcher position.
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