James McCann – secondary catcher
New to the team this year is five-year-veteran McCann. He has played his previous five seasons with the division rival Detroit Tigers.
He was actually drafted by the White Sox out of Dos Pueblos High School in 2008 in the 31st round, but he opted to attend the University of Arkansas. He was then drafted in the second round in 2011 by the Tigers.
McCann, to say the least, had a rough 2018. With a slash line of .220/.267/.314 in 118 games, it is a bit concerning. But McCann was never really known for his hitting. On a 162 game average in his five years in the league, he owns a slash of .240/.288/.366 with 14 home runs and 63 RBIs.
As someone who is not relied on to consistently produce offensively, those numbers are not bad. They were when he was Detroit’s starter, but he will be shifting into a backup role with the White Sox. If he can put up those numbers while working on improving his on-base percentage, it would be a solid year.
Just as Castillo, McCann averages about a six to seven percent walk rate and 22 to 25 percent strikeout rate. And just as Castillo, if the team is looking to contend in the coming years, many of their teammates need to adjust their approach.
Unlike Castillo, the attention that is drawn to McCann is his defensive ability. It may not sound like much, but his defensive WAR average of 0.7 is not too shabby. Granted it could be better, but as the team’s secondary backstop, it is tolerable.
McCann threw out the second most runners attempting to steal a base in the league last season. He caught 27 runners, second behind Jonathan Lucroy with 31. He, along with Castillo, gave up only five passed balls.
It is not expected for McCann to hit around .270. As a backup, it will be his job to get on base as much as possible. And if he can smack at least 12 home runs and drive in about 50 runs, it will be a solid year for him.
Despite this sort of low bar for him, McCann will be looking to build off of an otherwise fantastic Spring Training. In 46 plate appearances, he recorded a slash of .317/.391/.415 with a home run and three RBIs. He struck out only eight times and walked three times, which is decent, to say the least, but of course, could still be improved.
Because he is not the starter like he was in Detroit, he is not expected to hit above that .270 mark and record a .320 OBP. But because the bar is low, McCann is essentially set up to blow away expectations. Here’s hoping he carries his hot momentum in the season.