Braves catcher Brian McCann left Saturday’s game after suffering a right hamstring strain that will almost certainly result in a stint on the injured list. McCann suffered the injury sliding into third base during the fourth inning of Atlanta’s 4-2 loss to the Marlins, and left the field under the observation of team trainers.
If that wasn’t enough of a blow to the Braves’ catching corps, Tyler Flowers replaced McCann behind the plate and was then hit on the right hand during a fifth-inning at-bat against Miami’s Tayron Guerrero. Flowers toughed it out for the remainder of the evening, and x-rays on his injured hand didn’t reveal any fractures, the catcher told MLB.com’s Mark Bowman and other reporters after the game. While an IL placement doesn’t seem likely at this point, Flowers did think he might need a day or two to recover, leaving Atlanta rather short-staffed behind the place.
McCann signed a one-year, $2MM contract to return to Atlanta this offseason, teaming up with Flowers as the platoon replacement for Kurt Suzuki. McCann was keen to return to his home state and hopes to rebound from a lackluster 2018 season that saw him hit just .212/.301/.339 over 216 PA for the Astros. Knee injuries plagued McCann over his two years in Houston, and he missed two months last season after undergoing surgery.
Alex Jackson will be in Atlanta prior to Sunday’s game to take McCann’s spot on the 25-man roster, manager Brian Snitker told reporters (including Bowman). Assuming Flowers is still sore, Jackson is on pace to make his Major League debut, close to five years after being selected sixth overall by the Mariners in the 2014 draft.
Jackson was originally a catcher in high school before the Mariners moved him to the outfield upon his draft selection. Both MLB.com and Baseball America ranked Jackson within the top 30 prospects in baseball prior to the 2015 season, though his stock began to drop after a pair of forgettable seasons in Seattle’s farm system. Even with these struggles in mind, it was still rather surprising when Jackson was unceremoniously dealt to the Braves as part of a four-player trade in November 2016, though Jackson hasn’t done much since joining Atlanta’s organization to regain his past blue chip status.
The Braves did switch Jackson back behind the plate prior to the 2017 season, however, which has opened the door for his first taste of big league action. MLB.com cites Jackson as the 28th-best prospect in Atlanta’s system, describing his likely future in the Show “as a power-only backup backstop with decent catch and throw skills.” The same scouting report credits Jackson with improved defense as he has readjusted to his old position, though pitch-blocking remains an issue. Still just 23 years old, Jackson has hit .234/.317/.410 over 1580 career plate appearances in the minors.
If Flowers can’t play over the short term but also isn’t hurt enough to require an IL placement, it leaves Atlanta in a bit of a catching crunch. Rafael Lopez is available at Triple-A, though the Braves would have to make another move to add Lopez to the 40-man roster. Charlie Culberson is Atlanta’s emergency catcher and could back Jackson up for a couple of days at most, though Culberson didn’t think he’d played catcher since he was a ten-year-old.