While an unknown entering spring training, Chas McCormick provided the Astros great value in 2021.
My most unpopular opinion of the season was that the Houston Astros needed an upgrade in centerfield back in July. What I didn’t realize was that an upgrade was already on the team and another was in Sugar Land (Jake Meyers) waiting for an opportunity.
Chas McCormick had a pedestrian minor-league career, batting .276 with 20 home runs in 968 at-bats, and it was difficult to envision him as the answer for a team with World Series aspirations.
Turns out the duo of McCormick and Myers handled center field just fine.
McCormick started slow batting .160 in April with 25 at-bats in limited playing time as Myles Straw earned the right at a shot in center. As his playing time ramped up in May and June so did McCormick’s performance and power, peaking in June with a .250 average, five home runs and 10 RBI in 64 at-bats.
By the time the All-Star Break rolled around, McCormick had smashed 10 home runs and knocked in 35 runs while slugging .514, all the while playing an excellent center field.
McCormick’s power wilted in the second half, dropping to four home runs and a .382 slugging percentage, but his average did not and he finished the regular season slashing .257/.319/.447 with 14 home runs and 50 RBI.
What shouldn’t be overlooked is McCormick’s defense and versatility he displayed over the course of the season. McCormick started 20 games each in left and right fields and another 29 in center, handling 169 chances with one error (and two assists). The advanced metrics love his defense, too. His outs above average are in the 97th percentile and his outfielder jump is in the 92nd.
Those defensive numbers compare favorably to Straw, he provided power and slashed .310/.382 and .517 with runners in scoring position.
Even with the injury to Meyers, McCormick’s postseason was limited as the Astros opted to go with Jose Siri in several games, under the theory McCormick struggled against left handed pitchers. While his splits are better against right handers, McCormick held his own against lefties in the regular season (.244/.330/.500, five home runs in 78 at-bats).
McCormick finished the postseason batting .261 with two RBI in 26 at bats, but all of his hits were singles, as the second half power outage continued.
There’s a great debate among Climbing Tal’s Hill staff about what happens in the outfield next season as the emergence of Meyers and Siri have complicated matters as far as McCormick is concerned.
We’ll be exploring those theories as the off season continues, but I’m enamored with McCormick’s versatility and defense more than the other center field options, recognizing that they’re all rookies and the sample sizes are infinitesimal.
There are some definite drawbacks to McCormick’s game though, notably the decrease in power in the second half of the season and far too many strikeouts on a team that lives and breathes contact.
If back in April you would have told me an unknown McCormick would finish the season with these numbers and pass the eye test in playing all three outfield positions, I would have called you an optimistic homer, but you would have been correct. McCormick passed the rookie test with flying colors.