When the Houston Astros sent two promising young pitchers to the New York Yankees for Brian McCann, it sent a message to the league that they are going all-in.

McCann is widely known for his offensive prowess, but it is his defense and leadership that make this a great trade for the Astros heading into 2017.

Here is an idea of what to expect from him on offense, defense, and in the clubhouse.


The 32-year-old continues to separate himself from other catchers in the league at the plate. In 2016, he had his tenth season with 20 or more home runs. There are only three other catchers to reach that mark: Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, and Yogi Berra.

While McCann has lost his way in terms of hitting for average (.235 since 2014), that is still better than all Astros catchers in the same time span (.226). McCann’s hitting ability is due for improvement now that he is out of Yankee Stadium.

McCann embraced the dead-pull swing Yankee Stadium is tailor-made for. While it allowed his power numbers to stay the same, his inability to use all fields damaged his overall batting line. Over the last two years, the percentage of balls he hit to the opposite field was 18.1 percent, which was fourth lowest in baseball.

Despite his struggles maintaining a respectable average, he is still the top tier offensive threat he’s always been. Since 2014, he ranks second in home runs and runs batted in among major league catchers.

As long as McCann is able to refine his approach to include all fields, his average should increase while registering similar power numbers.


Behind the plate, McCann is a solid backstop. Aside from any stat-driven analysis, his reputation as a game-caller and leader is invaluable to a pitching staff.

Nowadays, a catcher’s defensive value is determined by evaluating two aspects of their game: success throwing runners out and success framing pitches.

Last season, he threw out only 23 percent of base runners. That represented a steep drop-off from the previous two years, which were 37 percent and 36 percent, respectively. That could be linked to the departure of bullpen coach Gary Tuck, who McCann spoke very highly of.

It could also be in part due to the difficulties catching the likes of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman. Trying to catch a pitch thrown by them could take his focus away from base-runners. On top of that, they are slow to the plate, especially Betances.

He is often regarded as a strong pitch framer, but the numbers do not seem to back that up. His RAA, which calculates Runs Above Average based on pitch framing, is 5.7. That ranks as only 14th in the league. However, in relation to his new teammate, that is above Evan Gattis (4.8).

Along with representing an upgrade statistically at the position for the Astros, McCann’s ability to manage a game is held in high regard. His presence behind the dish should be an improvement.


McCann’s leadership qualities are one of the main reasons he got a $85 million contract before the 2014 season.

Lacking a leader following Derek Jeter‘s departure, he stepped in and filled the void. By all accounts, he was universally respected and maintained the winning mentality necessary for a team to have success.

Perhaps the biggest validation of his leadership came last year during Gary Sanchez‘s historic stretch. He lost his position as starting catcher and handled the situation with class.

The Astros are hoping that McCann can instill that same mentality into the young core of talent on the team.

He will undoubtedly have a positive impact at the plate and behind it, but what he does in the clubhouse will have a lasting impact beyond 2017.


Dillon Healy is a Staff Writer for Outside Pitch MLB. You can follow him on Twitter here