James McCann

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James Thomas McCann

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Biographical Information[edit]

James McCann was the first player selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 2011 amateur draft.

Amateur Career[edit]

McCann hit .407 in high school, including .442 as a senior. The Chicago White Sox took him in the 31st round of the 2008 amateur draft but he went on to college instead. As a college freshman, he started and showed a good glove (.994 fielding at catcher, throwing out 15 of 42 attempted base-stealers) but a so-so bat (.242/.285/.313). He got at least one hit in all four games Arkansas played in the 2009 College World Series. As a sophomore, he again fielded .994 while improving offensively to .286/.373/.441. The only negative was that over 80% of opposing base-runners stole successfully. That summer, he struggled for the Cotuit Kettleers, going 8 for 76 with 7 walks, 2 doubles and a homer. He picked it up in the playoffs, batting .273 with two homers as Cotuit won the prestigious Cape Cod League. As a junior at Arkansas, McCann batted .306/.388/.469, fielded .992, only made two passed balls and threw out 35.5% of attempted base-stealers.


The Detroit Tigers took McCann in the 2nd round of the 2011 amateur draft. The 76th overall selection, he was the fourth catcher and first college catcher picked. He was also Detroit's first pick that year, having lost their first-round pick for signing free agent Víctor Martínez. He signed for a $577,900 bonus. The scout was Chris Wimmer.

Minor League Career[edit]

McCann had a rocky first summer as a pro. He struggled to a .146 stint with the GCL Tigers (5 for 14, 2B, HR, BB) and West Michigan Whitecaps (2 for 34, 2B, 2 BB, 12 K) in 2011. He had more errors (2) than runs (1) in his brief intro to professional baseball. He got some extra action that fall with Team USA, though. The US lost catcher Travis d'Arnaud to injury in the 2011 Baseball World Cup and needed someone to supplement Tuffy Gosewisch for the 2011 Pan American Games; they turned to McCann. He did not get to catch for the US in the event, in which they won the Silver Medal, as Gosewisch got all the action. He did play one game, entering in a rout of the Dominican national team as a pinch-hitter for DH Matt Clark. He doubled and scored against veteran Dario Veras in the 8th inning of the 20-2 pounding. Baseball America rated him as Detroit's 9th-best prospect.

In 2012, he split the season between the Lakeland Flying Tigers and Erie SeaWolves, hitting a combined .237 with 2 homers and 39 RBIs in 109 games. He had a better season with Erie in 2013, hitting .277 with 30 doubles and 8 homers, scoring 50 runs and driving in 54, in 119 games. He was an Eastern League mid-season All-Star. In 2014, he moved up to the Toledo Mud Hens of the AAA International League, where he hit .295 in 109 games, with 34 doubles and 7 homers. He solid performance led to a call-up to the Motor City when rosters expanded in September.

Major League Career[edit]

McCann made his major league debut with the Tigers on September 1, 2014. He played 9 games that season, going 3 for 12 with a double. He was a catcher in 6 games, including 2 starts, and pinch-hit in the other 3.

On March 13, 2015, he gained a bit of unwanted publicity when a foul ball off his bat during a spring training game struck a bird who was just minding its own business, perched atop the backstop screen, an incident reminiscent of the day another unfortunate volatile had the misguided idea of trying to fly in the path of a Randy Johnson fastball. There were conflicting reports about the fate of the bird, as the public address system, doubtless mindful of children at the park, stated it was doing fine, which seems irreconcilable with the fact it fell into a stunned woman's lap, leaving a puff of feathers behind. He hit his first career homer for the Tigers on April 29th, and in a rare distinction, it was of the inside-the-park variety, as he connected off Aaron Thompson of the Minnesota Twins for a long drive that eluded CF Jordan Schafer at Target Field. On August 7th, he made the news for getting into a fight in the dugout with SS José Iglesias. Neither player wanted to explain the cause of the dispute, and both tried to minimize the event, calling it "an internal matter". He set a major league record for catchers by starting his career with 118 straight errorless games. In fact, he did not commit his first error until May 30, 2016 when he threw wildly in an attempt to nail Cliff Pennington of the Los Angeles Angels at third base. He had thus extended the record to 139 games. In 2015, he hit .264 in 114 games and followed that with a .221 average in 105 games in 2016.

He played two more seasons as the Tigers starting catcher, in 2017 and 2018, with 106 and 118 games respectively, while batting .253 and .218. With 14 doubles and 13 homers in 2017, he managed to raise his OPS+ to a respectable 95, but it fell back to 57 - the lowest of his career in 2018, as he hit just 8 homers. He became a free agent following that season and signed with the Chicago White Sox, with whom he had his best season in 2019. His OPS+ rose to 108, thanks to 26 doubles, 18 homers and a .273 batting average in 118 games, and he was named to the All-Star team for the first time. He continued on this positive trend in 2020 when he shared the catching job with Yasmani Grandal. In a rare occurrence, both catchers were finalists for the Gold Glove at the position, although the winner was the third finalist, Roberto Perez of the Cleveland Indians. He hit very well in the abbreviated season, with a .289 average and 7 homers in 31 games, good for an OPS+ of 144, his best by a country mile. The White Sox made it to the postseason and he went 1 for 6 with a walk and a run scored in his team's loss to the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card Series. He was a free agent again after the season, and one of the top catchers on the market. On December 12th, he signed a four-year deal with the New York Mets contingent on his passing a physical exam, worth around $40 million.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL All-Star (2019)


Further Reading[edit]

  • Anthony DiComo: "Mets, McCann agree to 4-yr. deal (source)", mlb.com, December 12, 2020. [1]

Related Sites[edit]