Apr 21, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Houston Astros center fielder Jake Meyers (6) scores a run against the Atlanta Braves in the seventh inning at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
After a lost season, the Houston Astros center fielder may finally be finding himself again.
The numbers were ugly. There’s no other way to put it.
After being recalled last summer by the Houston Astros, Jake Meyers needed to show he was fully recovered from the torn labrum he suffered in the postseason the year before. He was called up on June 24, and on July 12, he entered a game against the Angels hitting .314 with an .804 OPS.
It went downhill very rapidly from there.
He finished July 5-for-43, dropping his average to .216 and his OPS to .597.
Suddenly, a player who showed a terrific ability the season before to hit high-velocity pitches now couldn’t touch them. A player who had been considered the best defensive center fielder in the Astros system the season before was seemingly gun-shy around the wall in the outfield. An outfielder with a strong arm seemed to be holding back on his throws. Was he hurt? Was it in his head? Was he just dealing with fatigue and afraid to push it? Ultimately, we will never know.
Playing time started to shrink, and Meyers went 8-for-40 in August, lowering his average to .209 and his OPS to .557. Ugly may not even be a strong enough description of those numbers. Hideous. Disastrous. Pathetic.
Meyers was optioned to Sugar Land at the end of August and found himself. His confidence seemingly regained; he smashed baseballs to the tune of a .345 AVG and 1.025 OPS for the Space Cowboys in September and earned a call-up with five games left in the season, going 5-for-11.
Five games was never going to be enough to convince Dusty Baker that he was worthy of a postseason roster spot, but his resurgence in Triple-A earned him a chance to compete for the center field job in spring training.
Baker considers Meyers a superior defender to Chas McCormick, incumbent center fielder, and World Series fan favorite, after making one of the greatest catches in World Series history. Therefore, the manager was going to give Meyers a chance to earn a platoon share in center as McCormick has big splits historically, crushing lefties but showing struggles versus right-handers.
Meyers scuffled badly in the spring. He didn’t hit much, while McCormick hit well. He did not separate himself defensively at all. Based on their performances, Meyers not only didn’t earn a share of the job, he earned his way straight to the bench and possibly to Sugar Land.
However, Meyers would continue to get opportunities and start the first two games of the season for Houston. Meyers went 0-for-6 with four strikeouts. Chas McCormick began getting in the lineup and took over as the team’s primary center fielder.
April 14, Meyers got a second chance. Chas McCormick was removed from the game after experiencing vision issues. McCormick would miss several games and then wind up on the IL due to a back injury. Meyers has been the everyday center fielder since and has looked like a different player.
In the 11 games since Meyers has hit in nine of them and had an eight-game hitting streak. Meyers has gone 13-for-38 (. 342 AVG) and raised his overall average to .281. He has improved his OPS from .399 on April 14 to .735 entering action on April 28.
He has been more aggressive in the field, in how he tracks ground balls, and in unleashing throws. For the last two weeks, Meyers has looked much more like the player the Astros expected in 2021 than the one they got in 2022.
So which is the real Jake Meyers? Is he just on a hot streak and about to crash down, or has he finally regained his confidence and showing who he really is?
The Astros are clearly hoping for the latter, even though it would create a playing time issue when Chas McCormick returns. Corey Julks has also hit well (. 299 AVG, .752 OPS) and earned a share of playing time. Michael Brantley has been rehabbing in Sugar Land and is expected to return to Houston soon as well.
Having multiple players producing and not enough places in the lineup to put them all is a good problem for a manager to have. So far, we have seen Meyers play significantly better when he gets regular playing time and struggle in a bench role. Is a player capable of being productive when not playing every day?
There are a lot of questions to ask and some promising recent results. Which is the real Jake Meyers, the player who struggled so badly last season and early this season or the player who has hit well the last two weeks?
Will the real Jake Meyers please stand up? Are we going to have a problem here?