Astros catching duo, the best in history of organization?
By Eric Huysman
The Houston Astros will have a powerful combination behind the plate for 2017!
Here we go, spring training has begun as the Astros player begin prepping for what should be a promising 2017. The core of the Stros lineup should be called the ABC’s with Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and George Springer. These players can’t do it all, so the Astros front office went out and added some veteran talent.
One of the players they brought in this offseason was Brian McCann, who would become the primary catcher for Houston. Always known as one of the better offensive catchers in the game, he was outplayed by Gary Sanchez last year for Yankees. The presence of the young catcher made McCann available and the Astros traded for him.
Gattis makes things interesting.
Last year, Evan Gattis returned to catching after a year of exile as the designated hitter. He teamed up with Jason Castro to form a decent catching duo near the end of the season. Castro walked this offseason, but Gattis remains to take over as the backup catcher. The two teamed up for a combined 3.9 WAR. Gattis did most of the heaving lifting with a 3.0 WAR, which was better as a catcher.
McCann has seen a dropoff of his WAR recently but had a 0.9 WAR with the Yankees in 2016. He was still able to hit 20 homers, but his RBIs dropped from 94 in 2015 to 58 in 2016. Sanchez took some of McCann’s starts last year, but maybe a fresh start will do McCann good. We have to remember that the Yankees did go through a mini-fire sale and missed the playoffs.
It was no secret that Gattis hit better as a catcher. As a catcher, he had a slash line of .295/ .345/ .647/ .992 with 19 homers and 41 runs batted in. A.J. Hinch has said that Gattis and McCann will not be in the lineup at the same time as a catcher or designated hitter. They did that last year because they were trying to fight back into the playoffs. This year, they will be smart about the catcher position, so they don’t lose the DH spot if needed to become a catcher.
McCann, however, had a slash line of .235/ .331/ .419/ .751 with 16 homers and 41 RBIs as a catcher. He had a down season, but a resurgence of offense would help build a formidable combination. This is what the Astros wanted, a lefty and righty platoon at catcher. Both hitters offer power and can drive in the big runs.
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Best all-time potential?
Looking back throughout the history of the Astros, it’s not even close to what these two players could be. Some of the top seasons by catchers are by Craig Biggio (1991, 4.4 WAR), Joe Ferguson (1977, 4.7 WAR), and Milt May (1974, 3.0 WAR). Looking at the combos, the best I could find is Mark Bailey and Alan Ashby in 1985 or Biggio and Alex Trevino in 1989. None of them offered the power potential that these two can.
Let’s look at two projections by Baseball America’s fantasy magazine.
McCann: .238/ 21 homers/ 69 RBIs
Gattis: .255/ 29 homers/ 72 RBIs
Hinch mentioned that McCann would be batting 8th in the lineup as the second leadoff guy. The last part was a joke but is that the right place from him. When I asked Jeremy Booth on Talking Stros, he said that you are paying him to be more that an eighth hitter.
Next: Astros: 4 Rookie hitters who will have big roles in 2017
Gone are the days of depending on a defensive catcher like Brad Ausmus, these two will mash this year. Sit back and enjoy the ride, can we call them the bald crushing catchers?
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***