(For information on this list, please click here.)
A couple of honorable mentions, though this one wasn’t a tough choice. Javy Lopez holds a majority of records for catchers in the franchise, including one of eight Braves in the franchise’s history to hit 200 HR. Greg Olsen was an All-Star for an awful 1990 squad, but more notable for this list, he was the guy in 1991 when watching baseball on TV suddenly became something I actually wanted to do. Of course, he was also part of that notable Sports Illustrated cover. If John Smoltz was Rick Vaughn, Olsen was Jake Taylor.
Favorite Braves List – Catcher
In 2005, when the Baby Braves took over the landscape, Jeff Francoeur became the new face of the franchise. I would make the argument that the guy with the bigger future was the one who pushed Johnny Estrada out of a job. Seven years later, Brian McCann has six All-Star selections, five Silver Sluggers, and Francoeur is on his fourth team.
At a position where offense is sometimes considered a plus, McCann has posted OPS’s between .817 and .896 since 2008 with his wOBA now falling below .348. Catchers like Miguel Montero, Carlos Santana, and Buster Posey have shown signs of being his contemporary, but only one player has been near him for the same time period and that guy, Joe Mauer, has fell somewhat back into the pack.
Not to say McCann is perfect. While his offensive numbers have been great, they have also been falling every year since 2008. It’s hard to quantify catcher defense, but from the eye test, McCann is a failure behind the plate in throwing out runners, not the best at blocking pitches, and his game calling seems to be handicapped by micromanaging from the dugout.
However, with all that in mind, McCann has became his position’s gold standard in today’s game and truly one of the guys you to root for. His effort is unquestioned and he seems to be one of the most liked members of the team. McCann has slumped most of the year, though a BABIP of .236 helps to explain his struggles. By the end of the season, it is hard not to believe McCann will have an OPS topping .800 and another 20 or 25 homers.
Finally, here is where my personal appreciation of a guy falls into conflict with my desire to see the Braves win. McCann is a free agent after 2013 and I see no reason to extend him. Those things I was critical about above…they aren’t going away. And while McCann will be only 30 in the first year of any new contract he signs so chances are he won’t suddenly become horrible, is he worth the going rate for the better catchers in the league set by Yadier Molina (5 year, $75M) and Montaro (5 year, $60M)? What if he wants to match Mauer‘s $184M, at least on average payment per year? Is McCann worth $23M a season? $115M over five years?
This is why I an enjoying McCann for the next year-and-a-half and hoping he is not a Brave come 2014 unless he gives the homest of hometown discounts. Regardless, he is easily my favorite Brave and I am hoping the rest of my list is this easy.