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Can McCann help lead the Bombers back?

Brian McCann looked good behind the plate. At the plate? That was a different story this season. Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Yankees scouted Brian McCann in 2013, their greatest concern was, according to one source, the "change-ups" McCann was throwing down to second base after shoulder surgery.

With his shoulder improving as that year went on, the Yankees were convinced McCann's lefty-swinging bat and his renown for handling pitchers would compensate for being worse than league average at throwing out runners.

As it ended up, McCann caught base stealers at a 37 percent clip in 2014, which was the best in baseball. The league average was 27 percent.

Brian McCann

Brian McCann

#34 C
New York Yankees

2014 STATS

  • GM140
  • HR23

  • RBI75

  • R57

  • OBP.286

  • AVG.232

McCann also guided a starting staff that was missing four-fifths of its original rotation for much of the season. Yankees manager Joe Girardi, a stickler for catchers as a former backstop himself, lauded McCann for how he handled pitchers, crediting McCann for some of the success of the replacements.

Now, don't be mistaken, this is not a defense of McCann's year, which was largely a disappointment. McCann was part of a combination of free-agent hitters asked to replace Robinson Cano's bat -- and he didn't do nearly enough at the plate to make that happen.

Heading into spring training next season, you will hear how McCann will be more comfortable and, with Derek Jeter retired, how McCann might be more of a leader. Those both might be true, but despite McCann's stellar defense, no one will listen to him unless he hits.

In 140 games in 2014, he hit 23 homers, which was just one fewer than his career high. His 75 RBIs were middling for his career. His batting average (.232) was the second lowest of his career and 40 points worse than his career average. His .692 OPS was his worst ever, and, out of the nine catchers who qualified for the batting crown in 2014, it was lower than all but one of them.

His wins above replacement value was tied for 19th among all catchers -- knotted with none other than the Chicago Cubs' Wellington Castillo.

In all, as disappointing of a year as McCann had, it could have been worse if the Yankees' fears about his throwing had been prescient in the first season of a five-year, $85 million deal that can vest to six years and $100 million.

So what can the Yankees expect from McCann in 2015 when he turns 31? Most likely, he'll probably hit a little better and throw a little worse. Is that good enough?

The Yankees were dead-on in their assessment that marrying McCann and the right-field porch would end in home run bliss. McCann hit 19 of his 23 homers in the Bronx. At home, his OPS was .784, which is respectable and in the neighborhood of his .808 career OPS, but still off his .832 career home OPS.

On the road, though, McCann had major issues. His OPS was .591. 5-9-1! Five-nine-one!

Brendan Ryan's career OPS is .610. In 2014, Ichiro Suzuki's OPS was .664, while Jeter's was .617.

Five-ninety-one! Yikes!

That is in the first year of a five-year deal. Those contracts are designed to be good at the beginning and leave you praying they're not an albatross at the end.

So there is concern if McCann's bat is on the way down. If you combine his past three seasons, his overall OPS is just .723, a decline from his .800-plus number overall.

If possible, McCann must overcome the shift. This is easier said than done when pitchers are throwing the ball 90 miles per hour or faster.

But McCann took the Yankees' money a year ago. With it came huge expectations and, if the Yankees are going to be playing this time next year, McCann must be among those who've lead them back.