I have some bad news for the Phillies and anyone who thinks the Phils are pre-ordained NL East champs: the most underrated player in baseball is determined to get better.

By better, I mean thinner. Brian McCann – already the second best catcher in baseball – made it his mission to shed weight and get fit during the offseason. This isn’t a typical BSOHL1 spring puff piece, McCann points to his struggles down the stretch as a need to improve his fitness, as he told Carroll Rogers of the AJC.

“I’d always put the work in, but then when you go out and put fried food in your body, you’re not going to see the work,” McCann said. “Now you can see it because I’m putting the necessary food in my body that a professional athlete should be doing.”

In addition to applying the “garbage in, garbage out” theory to his diet, McCann also pinpointed the source of his troubling vision problems. Cutting out caffeine in the form of energy drinks (a.k.a. poison) finally corrected the dry eyes and blurred vision laser eye surgery could not remedy. Are we sure McCann is only 27? This has all the earmarks of a post-heart attack midlife crisis. Next you’ll tell me he shaved his beard to further distance himself from his husky hipster chillbro image.

Brian McCann is just 27 and is, in fact, one of the very best players in baseball. An already successful & established player preaching continuous improvement on the heels of his best season, not his worst, is very unusual. McCann has a reputation as a leader and perfectionist in the clubhouse, something an increased emphasis on health won’t change one bit.

Take a look at the below WAR comp with Golden God Joe Mauer. To say McCann holds his own does the Braves backstop an extreme disservice.

The only question is how much better, realistically, can McCann get? His walk rates increase year to year, reaching a career high of 13.1% in 2010. Very few players at any position reach those lofty heights (for reference, a 13% walk rate is in the 90th percentile). McCann up and decided he wanted to steal some bags in 2008, grabbing 5,4, and 5 over his last three seasons after stealing only 3 previously in his career.

The only real place McCann can grow is adding a bit more power, no mean feat in the heavy air of the ATL. Should Brian McCann reach the 30 home run plateau at any point of his career, his name won’t be out of place among the finest ever at his position. A distinction he seems bound to earn the old-fashioned way.

1 – Best Shape Of His Life.