James McCann Enjoying Breakout Season

McCann leads all American League catchers with a 2.0 WAR in 2019.

Chris Emma
June 20, 2019 - 11:42 am
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Fifteen minutes after the White Sox had lost to the Royals on Opening Day in Kansas City, veteran catcher James McCann was seated next to young left-hander Carlos Rodon in front of a computer screen.

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Rodon had just picked up the loss, chased by the Royals after 5 1/3 innings of work and a sixth-inning sequence that was still lingering in his mind. McCann was there to walk him through each pitch -- its velocity, movement, location and the "why" behind the results.

From his first game with the White Sox on, McCann has always been available as a resource to the team's pitching staff. 

"We're really fortunate to have him," manager Rick Renteria said of McCann.

As the modern catcher has evolved, with organizations prioritizing defense and pitch framing over production at the plate, McCann has brought the White Sox value in all facets of his game.

The 29-year-old McCann is enjoying a career year in his first season with the White Sox. After going 1-for-3 and hitting his seventh homer of the season in a 7-3 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, McCann has a slash line of .330/.385/.525 in 2019. He has posted the biggest increase of any player in MLB in wins above replacement from last season, going from -0.5 in 2018 to 2.0 currently.

Even with McCann as a 2.0-win player in 2019, according to FanGraphs, his career WAR is at 1.6. 

As McCann struggled offensively in hitting .220 with the Tigers in 2018, the White Sox saw potential. Bill Scherrer, a major league scout in the organization, went to general manager Rick Hahn and recommended McCann, noting he had All-Star potential and tremendous value to a pitching staff.

White Sox assistant general manager Jeremy Haber and director of player development Chris Getz were in agreement with Scherrer's scouting, and Hahn was too. The team signed McCann to a one-year deal in December as one of its first offseason additions.

Why did the White Sox see All-Star potential in McCann?

"I just turned 29, which I guess in the game of baseball some people think is old now," McCann said. "But in all reality, I feel like I'm just now coming into my prime. I hope that's the way the organization looks at me. I'm thankful for the opportunity. I've really enjoyed my time here."

The White Sox knew at the least that McCann would be an asset to their pitching staff, as Hahn told 670 The Score this week.

"He's been outstanding in that regard," Hahn said, "And frankly, he's been probably even a little bit better offensively than of us, Chris, Jeremy or Billy, even projected."

McCann currently sits second in All-Star voting among American League catchers, trailing the Yankees' Gary Sanchez by a wide margin. He's in line to make the cut to the final three, at which point another round of fan voting decides the starters.

If the White Sox have their way, right-hander Lucas Giolito will be throwing the first pitch of the All-Star Game to McCann in Cleveland on July 9. They feel both are deserving of being All-Star starters for the AL. It would be fitting, given how helpful McCann has been in Giolito's turnaround.

McCann leads all AL catchers in WAR this season. After arriving to the White Sox as their backup catcher, earning a place as the All-Star starter would be a tremendous milestone to McCann's turnaround.

"It's something I've worked for," McCann said. "Something as a little boy you dream of, as you get older you work for it. It's the culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication.

"That's a little boy's dream. It's something that I've always dreamt of. It would be pretty special to get that accolade."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.