The Yankees had a lot of holes to fill this offseason, and while they still have quite a bit of work to do as far as the rotation is concerned, one spot they haven't been worried about is behind the plate. That's because we all know who will be there, both in 2015, and for four more years: Brian McCann. McCann arrived to big fanfare last offseason, as we all were glad to see the Chris Stewart era come to a merciful close. A catcher that carried a big stick, just like Core Four member Jorge Posada, McCann and his lefty power seemed ideal for Yankee Stadium. On top of that, he played great defense - what wasn't to like?
His 2014 triple slash, that's what. McCann hit just .232/.286/.406 last season, posting just a 92 wRC+. While he lead the team with 23 homers, this had about as much to do with the Yankees' dearth of offense than anything McCann did well. Simply put, McCann was bad last year at the plate, like a lot of Yankee hitters. If the Yankees are going to make some noise this year, they'll need a lot of these players to rebound, and while nothing is certain, there is a good chance McCann will.
McCann, of course, has a great track record, and that in and of itself is a reason to have faith that he'll rebound somewhat in 2015. His numbers across the board were far lower than his career numbers last season (his 2014 OPS of .692 is far below his career average of .808, and his career wRC+ is 114), and while some of it may be indicative of the general decline of age, his stats are likely to at least creep a bit closer to his high career averages next season. He's only had two comparable seasons to 2014 during his time in the big leagues (and one of those was just his second full year in the majors). Also, unlike someone like Carlos Beltran, McCann isn't coming off any big injury either - just a down year. His low BAPIP of .231, far below his career average of .283, also suggests some bad luck had to do with McCann's rough 2014. He may never hit .270 again, but he probably won't hit .232, either, and if he can find a way to hit about .250 and slug around .450, the Yankees will be in good shape.
Another reason to have faith in McCann next season is the way he ended last year. McCann posted a 121 wRC+ in September while slugging eight of his 23 home runs. Some of this seems to have stemmed from him abandoning his attempts to hit around the shift and instead just pulling the ball and hoping for the best. A lot of McCann's struggles last year seemed to stem from defenses shifting against him, which had a two-fold effect: it limited the likelihood of balls he pulled sneaking through for hits, and also sapped his power by encouraging him to try to hit to the opposite field. His BAPIP when he pulled the ball was a horrific .194, compared to .316 when he hit the opposite way, but he still slugged .649 when pulling the ball, compared to sub-.400 numbers when hitting to center or left.
In September, however, McCann seemingly abandoned trying to beat the shift and instead returned to trying to just beat the cover off of baseballs, shift or not. While he didn't make a dramatic change, he did pull the ball more in September than he did earlier in the year (he pulled 47% of balls he put in play in September, compared to 41% from April to August). Obviously this is something of a small sample size, but much of the success he previously had in his career also came from just pulling the ball. Over his career, McCann has pulled 50% of balls he put in play, and hit just 27% to the opposite field. That opposite field number jumped to 35% in 2014.
If McCann can replicate some of his September success across 2015, he'll be without a doubt one of the best catchers in the American League. He's still elite as a pitch-framer and seems to do a great job of managing a pitching staff, and so if he can give the Yankees a slightly above average bat, he'll be providing them just what they need. The projections seem to agree that McCann should be better than he was in 2014 (Steamer has him hitting .251/.317/.445 triple slash with a 111 wRC+). He may never be an All Star again, but if he can rediscover some of his power pulling the ball to right and slug around .450, hit 25 or so home runs, and continue to provide excellent defense, he'll be doing his part to make the Yankees a contender next season.