After the Houston Astros dealt Myles Straw to the Cleveland Indians, the centerfield job was handed to Chas McCormick, who has progressed mightily in his rookie campaign. In response to Straw leaving the team, general manager James Click pointed to Jake Meyers for outfield depth.
Meyers, a top 10 prospect for the Astros, has exceeded expectations with more playing time in response to Kyle Tucker hitting the injured list due to health and safety protocol. With Tucker’s roster spot most likely in Jacob Wilson, he will take the reins in right field once activated.
Chas McCormick has been the everyday centerfielder, but could Jake Meyers continue to start in center when Kyle Tucker returns?
McCormick has been out of the starting lineup the last two games with hand soreness, but with everyone healthy excluding Tucker, Michael Brantley would be in left, Meyers would be in center and McCormick would be in right. Meyers has taken most of the innings (66) in center with Tucker absent, moving McCormick to right.
Peripherals aren’t fully displayed for both McCormick and Meyers, as they don’t have the innings and plate appearances to be included in all percentiles on Baseball Savant. In regards to sprint speed, which was a strong suit of Straw’s, Meyers (97th percentile) ranks ahead both McCormick (93rd) and Straw (96th, .2 f/s vs. Meyers).
Speed doesn’t ultimately define an outfielder, but even with defensive categories for outfielders, Meyers is in a much smaller sample size than that of McCormick and Straw. Meyers and McCormick both have an 88% expected success rate in centerfield in 2021, although Meyers looks to have more range at the position.
It is hard to justify a platoon between Meyers and McCormick, since they both hit right-handed and throw left-handed. But even with Tucker returning to right field soon, Meyers could have as many starts as McCormick in center.
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Meyers’ first three appearances came in late-game situations, where he totaled two strikeouts in three at-bats. Since then, the right-hander has slashed .341/.375/.614 through 44 at-bats on the season with six extra-base hits.
Numbers will regress to the mean, but why sit down a hot bat even if he is a rookie? McCormick is also a rookie with more games under his belt, but his recent chase rate has climbed to 26.0% of swings at pitches out of the zone.
This number doesn’t mean they are all swinging strikes, but McCormick doesn’t have the at-bats to be in Baseball Savant’s chase rate percentile.
Although a heavy swinger, the right-hander is slashing to .260/.319/.466 tune through 219 at-bats. Meyers and McCormick could split the centerfield work load down the stretch, as both are in similar categories offensively and defensively.