Brian McCann: A Microcosm in Fantasy Strategy

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

After Brian McCann's injury and production challenges in 2012, are now compounded by off-season shoulder surgery, and a rehab that may cause him to be out until mid-May. How fantasy owners view McCann will depend on the type of league they are in, and how quickly they believe his production will return.

What happened? After averaging 22 HR, 82 RBI, 61 runs, and a .281 BA over the last six seasons, 2012 saw Brian McCann's numbers drop to 20 HR (still pretty darn good for that category), 67 RBI, 44 runs, and a .230 BA. Those owners who drafted him, and they had to take him as one of the first catchers off the board, were expecting more. The good news is that a look at some underlying stats reveals a bounce-back season may be in the offing. The bad news is that bounce-back may not start until May 2013, and probably not fully until 2014.

I'm a roster half-full kinda guy, so let's take a look at the good news first. Coming into 2012, McCann had consistent HR and PX (Power Index) numbers, and while his HR production was close to par, his PX dropped 29 points, to a career low, 98, last season. Often when an established player sees a drop this large, it's due to an injury -- and it turns out McCann had the same fate. Last month, McCann had arthroscopic surgery to repair a tear in his labrum (shoulder), and he is expected to be sidelined for up to six months, which would put him on schedule to miss the first few weeks of the regular season.

Assuming the surgery and rehab go well, what can owners expect? First, with a CT% of at least 80% in each of his major league seasons, and a BB% rate of 9% last year, I would expect a BA around .268. Power? That may take longer to come back. Once it does, I think 20 HR and 74 RBI are well with in reach. The problem, though, is that owners may not see that until 2014. I think it is unrealistic to project that McCann will hit the ground running as soon as he is cleared to see game action in 2013. Owners should get some of the above stats, but McCann's owners may need to look towards 2014 for more of a return to normalcy, and make decisions accordingly.

The question comes down to what type of league you are playing in, and when you need the production. He is currently expected back around the beginning of May, and as a fantasy owner, it's a reasonable expectation to have on draft day. The difficulty lies in the fact that the power may not come back right away, which represents a good chunk of McCann's fantasy value. With an injury like this, there are too much uncertainty to have any confidence in simply prorating the projections and calling it a day. For every Adam LaRoche (who set a career high in HR the year after surgery to repair a torn labrum), there are plenty of others who did not fare as well.

If you are in a shallow mixed redraft league, you should probably let him pass. If you are in a two-catcher league, taking him as a second catcher may prove valuable, as he has as much upside as anyone being drafted in that area. Finally, if you are in a dynasty or keeper format, you have to decide if you can afford to be without the level of performance you would typically expect from him. In the end, you may be better off trading him to another team for more reliable current production in order to win your league.

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