The Astros have activated catcher Brian McCann and outfielder Jake Marisnick from the 10-day disabled list, selected the contract of right-hander Josh James from Triple-A Fresno, and recalled lefty Cionel Perez from Fresno, Ben DuBose of MLB.com was among those to report.
The most notable news here is the return of McCann, who went on the DL on July 3 with a right knee injury and then underwent surgery to repair the issue. McCann will start Saturday for the Astros, who mostly turned to Max Stassi and Martin Maldonado behind the plate in his stead.
Houston acquired Maldonado from the Angels a few weeks after losing McCann, and the defensive-minded backstop has since offered above-average offensive production in 64 plate appearances (.237/.270/.492 with three home runs). The 32-year-old Maldonado has never been much of a hitter, though, and an unsustainable power surge (.254 ISO) has been the reason for his respectable output as an Astro, helping to overshadow subpar strikeout and walk rates (23.4 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively).
Stassi, meanwhile, has come back to earth to a significant extent since a hot offensive start to 2018, but overall, he has batted a solid .234/.322/.407 with eight homers in 242 PAs. Notably, the 27-year-old has been a major asset behind the plate, as Baseball Prospectus has ranked him as the game’s best pitch framer this season.
McCann, 34, has garnered plenty of praise for his defense throughout his career, and has typically been among the majors’ premier offensive backstops. However, he struggled to a .206/.283/.323 line with five HRs and a career-worst .116 ISO in 173 PAs before undergoing surgery. As a left-handed hitter, he may well finish the season in a platoon with the righty-swinging Maldonado or Stassi. After that, it’s unclear what McCann’s future will hold, as he’s likely to hit free agency over the winter. McCann is controllable next year by way of a $15MM club option, but he won’t amass the necessary 1,000 PAs from 2017-18 for it to vest, and the Astros won’t exercise it.
While the McCann era may be winding down in Houston, James’ career with the team is just beginning. The Astros, clinging to a 1 1/2-game lead over the A’s for the AL West lead, will start the 25-year-old James against the Angels on Saturday. Houston’s turning to James, a 34th-round pick in 2014, because it’s without starters Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. – both of whom are on the DL.
MLB.com’s sixth-ranked Astros prospect, James earned his way the majors this year by posting a 3.40 ERA/3.39 FIP with a sky-high 12.92 K/9 (against 3.79 BB/9) across 17 starts and 92 2/3 Triple-A innings. James offers serious heat, per MLB.com, as his fastball sits between 95 mph to 97 mph and is capable of reaching triple digits. His repertoire also includes a promising slider and “an improving changeup,” according to MLB.com, though the outlet suggests he’s likely to be a reliever in the majors.