The roster battles for the defending champion Astros are few this spring, but they are bossy Dusty Baker reporters who said (including the Chandler Rome Houston Chronicle) that there will be a bit of competition in the middle of the field between Jake Meyers and McCormick turned over the next six weeks.
“There’s competition … We hope (Jake) Meyers bounces back from the injury. We’ll see how Chas (McCormick) looks. There is room for everyone to play. As you know, I’ll play everybody,” Baker said.
McCormick would certainly have the upper hand to get the majority of pitching reps this year. The 27-year-old slashed .245/.332/.407 with 14 home runs in his second big league season, and put up 5 Outs Above Average in about 450 innings of center field.
Meyers, on the other hand, hit just .227/.269/.313 with one home run over 160 plate appearances last season. To be fair to Meyers, he only returned from a torn labrum in June and hit a much better .260/.323/.438 during his rookie season in 2021. Like McCormick, he has put up solid numbers by Meyers in center field, earning. 7 Outs Above Average in about 400 innings at the position last year.
With Kyle Tucker and Jordan Alvarez lined up to handle the work in the corner spots, midfield is the only outfield spot around which there is any question mark. McCormick would have to be the favorite, but if a healthy full season allows Meyers to regain some of his offensive numbers this spring he could give the Astros some positive headaches heading into in the new season.
One other player who appears in the outfield mix is a veteran Michael Brantley. The Astros committed the 35-year-old to a one-year, $12MM deal this winter, bringing him back for his fifth season in Houston. Brantley always hits when he’s on the field, as evidenced by his .306/.368/.464 line in four seasons with the Astros, but staying on the field has been a problem for the veteran. He went down in June and required season-ending shoulder surgery, limiting his contribution to 64 games last year. Astros GM Dana Brown gave an update on Brantley’s recovery, and there appears to be no guarantee he’ll be ready to go for opening day.
“It’s still day-to-day. He is hitting, fielding ground balls, moving well, not feeling much pain. It is of course. I think it’s going to go down to the wire, but I think it’s going to be close,” Brown said (Twitter).
While that doesn’t preclude him from being available for the Astros’ first series of the season, it’s a slight step back from January when Brantley was expected to be ready for opening day. Brantley spent about half of his 64 games in the outfield last year, and when he’s fit he gives Houston the left field/DH option along with Alvarez and Tucker.