Due to recent injuries circling the Astros, we have seen more of Chas McCormick, which has been a “tough” adjustment for the rookie.
The Houston Astros‘ outfield has been modified since the end of the 2019 season. With Yordan Alvarez falling to injury in 2020, Kyle Tucker made a splash in left field, showing that good things come to those who wait. Then, the departures of George Springer and Josh Reddick led to in-house talent finally getting the chance to make a name for themselves. We all know Myles Straw, as he has bounced up and down for a few seasons, but how well do you know Chas McCormick?
While his roots are in West Chester, Penn., McCormick made his big move in the game of baseball at a Division II college: Millersville University of Pennsylvania. The six foot left-hander was one of the best pitchers in his area growing up, throwing 85 mph, until his college coach decided to put a bat into his hands.
“I remember my freshman year pitching in a fall game; I didn’t really pitch that well,” McCormick said. “I went up to the plate, hit a little chopper down the line and got down the line really fast. Ever since, they were like, ‘oh, let’s put a bat in your hands.'”
This was the beginning of McCormick’s move from the mound to the outfield. The right-handed hitter slashed .335/.413/.419 over 236 plate appearances in his first season at Millersville, and this is where the man dubbed “ChazzyFizz” would find his new calling.
McCormick moved away from the mound but made three more appearances off the rubber in his colligate career. In three games, the left-hander posted a 4.50 ERA over two innings of work with four walks. When asked if he would ever want to be a position player pitching in the major leagues, he would be exhilarated if given the opportunity, as it is on his bucket list.
“[Myles] Straw wants to do it really badly. I would love to do it. I think I was close. I think it was a couple weeks ago that they were thinking about putting me out there,” McCormick said. “I would want to maybe let one eat a little bit; see if my arm still has it, but obviously I wouldn’t want to hit anyone.”
While making the move from the rubber to the batter’s box, McCormick is among a different breed of ball players that throw left-handed and hit right-handed. Not many major-league outfielders are among this class, but it has restricted McCormick from playing the infield and adding versatility in his career. The idea of playing first base does intrigue him, but McCormick hasn’t played the position since middle school.
“I think it’s a disadvantage. Obviously, I wish I hit in the left handed batter’s box; you get down the line faster,” McCormick said. “I wish I threw righty so I could play infield and outfield and be like a utility guy and maybe a little more valuable. My three older brothers were predominantly righty, and I’m predominantly right. I just throw left and kick left for some reason.”
The left-hander has adjusted well in the absence of Michael Brantley. From playing all three outfield positions, McCormick feels like he has the corner outfields down and would like to see a little more time in center.
Currently, he has 1.000 fielding percentage over 162.1 innings with no errors. This is a small sample size of time in the field from a certain viewpoint, but in an advanced metrics outlook, McCormick has a 94% success rate in the field and collects two outs above average. While in the 94th percentile in sprint speed, his legs aren’t something to worry about, as he is 2-for-2 on stolen base attempts this season.
For the 26-year-old rookie, nerves play an effect on his game. While making his major-league debut in the first series of the ’21 season in part to an explosive offense and Brantley’s wrist injury, McCormick’s April 1st debut had him nervous. Although being called up in 2020 for the postseason, the former 21st round pick didn’t see the field of play but had the opportunity to experience something that many players only dream of.
“I didn’t think I was gonna get the call up at the end of last year, because they kind of told me a week before the season ended, ‘Hey, Chaz, we don’t think we’re going to be able to call you up, or play you this year,'” McCormick said. “I was like, that’s fine, you know, maybe next year.”
McCormick ended up receiving that call, which led to a series of emotions as expected. While spending three years in the minor leagues, he turned himself from a middle of the draft pick to an option for the big league roster. Although being optioned after the ALDS, McCormick entered ’21 spring training looking to keep his name alive for the last outfielder spot until Steven Souza Jr. came along.
The number 20 was worn by McCormick in the ’20 postseason, but to start spring, it belonged to Souza. This didn’t seem to bother the outfielder, because he had the mentality of knowing there will be competition along the way. Souza was released half-way through the month of March, which let McCormick take his number back but not until a few weeks into the major-league season.
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While mainly a pinch run option and defensive replacement at first, McCormick has started in seven of the past eight games due to Brantley falling to the IL. This move from a once-a-week player to starting everyday can be a big jump for a rookie.
“It’s tough. It’s really tough from getting a few at bats a couple times a week. But you got to stay strong, mentally, physically and emotionally. You have to be ready every day,” McCormick explained. “So much can happen throughout the season; so many bumps and bruises. Right now, I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunity. With Brantley, Alvarez and Yuli out, for guys like me, that’s why we’re here.”
McCormick has kept his mind right even in the face of nerves and new roles being placed in front of him. At the plate, the right-hander lives on his “timing and rhythm,” which he attributes to success. In his last seven games, he is slashing .240/.323/.480 with two home runs and five RBI.
Whenever Brantley, Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel return, McCormick will fall back into the fourth outfield option. This isn’t a diss at his potential but a point to him being the odd man out. With recent success in the field and at the plate, it would behoove the Astros to have McCormick in the lineup more than once a week.
While being named Chas McCormick, the Astros’ outfielder has had an exceptional track record of nicknames given by family members and by teammates. You might have noticed that he sometimes spells it ‘Chaz.’ When asked why he does this, he answered, “I just kind of like it.” It was a hard name for people to pronounce growing up, so the change of spelling just stuck with McCormick.
On Monday’s broadcast, Todd Kalas had a nickname for McCormick that his father gave him as a child. That name is the “Chasmanian Devil.” It is really cool. Now, make it stick.