Where does McCormick fit in Astros' lineup?

May 22nd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

HOUSTON -- Astros outfielder returned from the injured list on Tuesday and found himself in a fight for playing time. Again. This is nothing new for McCormick, who began the season as the team’s starting left fielder before struggling at the plate and eventually landing on the IL with a right hamstring injury.

While he was out, center fielder Jake Meyers had one of the best stretches of his career, going 9-for-15 with two homers and six RBIs from Thursday through Sunday. And rookie outfielder Joey Loperfido (Houston's No. 6 prospect) has made an impact since he was recalled on April 30, hitting safely in nine of 12 starts while splitting time with Mauricio Dubón in left.

So where does McCormick fit in?

“If I don’t play good enough again since I’m back, I’m not going to play,” he said prior to going 0-for-3 with a strikeout in Tuesday’s 6-5 win over the Angels. “It’s not about me because we’re winning right now. I just need to be able to play good enough to help this team win. It doesn’t matter what role we’re in. We have a lot of good outfielders playing well.

"I’m happy to be back, happy we’re winning. My start wasn’t good.”

McCormick slashed .236/.325/.278 in 21 games to start the season before going on the IL. It was a disappointing to start to what set up as a promising season for McCormick, who was tabbed as an everyday player in the offseason by both general manager Dana Brown and manager Joe Espada.

In 2023, McCormick appeared in 115 games in the regular season with a career-high 457 plate appearances, with 45 starts in left, 51 in center and nine in right. He posted career-best numbers across the board: .273/.353/.489 with 22 homers, 70 RBIs and 19 stolen bases, but he often sat against right-handed starters.

During his Minor League rehab games with Double-A Corpus Christi, McCormick said his swing felt better than it did earlier in the year.

“If I can focus on driving the ball a little more, I could be in good shape,” he said. “I just need to be ready to go.”

McCormick and Meyers are locker neighbors and friends and competition is nothing new to them. Espada showered Meyers with praise earlier this week and he’s became entrenched as Houston’s starting center fielder.

“Every time he swings the bat, he finds the ball,” Espada said. “Even when he doesn’t find the barrel, he gets those singles in there. He’s playing with confidence.”

With Meyers holding down center and Kyle Tucker having a Most Valuable Player-caliber start to the season in right field, McCormick will have to make the most of his time in left field.

“[Jake’s] been playing great and he should play every day,” McCormick said. “Everyone’s been playing great. We’ve been winning. I’m happy to be back and want to help this team win any way possible.”