McCormick looking to take full advantage of everyday role

February 25th, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros general manager Dana Brown and manager Joe Espada have been steadfast in their support of outfielder , as both have said this spring that he will be an everyday player. Not that McCormick didn’t play a lot in 2023, but Espada appears to be more committed to writing McCormick’s name in the lineup card more than Dusty Baker did last year.

No one is happier about that than McCormick, who appeared in 115 games in the regular season last year, finishing with a career-high 457 plate appearances. He started 45 games in left field, 51 in center field, nine in right field and three at designated hitter and posted career-best numbers across the board: .273/.353/.489 with 22 homers, 70 RBIs and 19 stolen bases.

McCormick often sat against right-handed pitchers last year because he had a .769 OPS against right-handers and a 1.008 OPS against left-handers, but he’ll have more of a chance to show what he can do against righties in ’24.

“Joe said this year he’s going to give me a better shot,” McCormick said. “I got a good shot last year. I played a lot last year. I don’t think it matters who the [manager] is. I always have to go out and prove myself. It will be nice to be playing a lot. I will be playing a lot. I have to make sure I’m ready and prepared to perform.”

Brown said at the Winter Meetings in December that Jake Meyers would begin the season as the team’s starting center fielder, which means McCormick will play more left field than center this year. When Yordan Alvarez plays left field instead of designated hitter, McCormick and Meyers will battle for time in center field.

“That’s nothing new,” McCormick said.

Considering his ‘23 season was up and down at the plate, McCormick is hoping consistent playing time will make him a better offensive player. He also made some changes to his batting stance, widening his legs a touch and making sure he is standing taller in the box to get on top of the fastball.

“Not much of a change, and hopefully I can sit on the ball longer,” he said. “If I get fooled on anything low and away, I can kind of hold my position, so I don’t roll over and my shoulder doesn’t pull off.”

McCormick made strides last year hitting breaking pitches better while continuing to crush fastballs. He hit .268 against sliders last year, a marked improvement from the .199 batting average he posted against sliders in ’22. He hit .358 last year against fastballs.

The ups and downs of last season saw McCormick post a .552 OPS in May and a 1.128 OPS in July. He ended the regular season in a slump, going 13-for-67 (.194) in his final 20 games with three extra-base hits. In the playoffs, he was 8-for-28 with one extra-base hit, a homer in Game 4 of the ALCS.

Despite the vote of confidence from Brown and Espada, McCormick is still approaching this season as if he has something to prove.

“The position I’m in, I think I always have to go out there and earn a spot,” he said. “I think that helps me stay focused and not get too comfortable. Joe’s big word is ‘complacency.’ Yeah, I had a good year last year, but this is a new year. I have to think of it as I’m still fighting for a spot. I know I’m going to play a lot this year. I’m going to play like I’m a veteran and play like I’ve been there before. I’m still going to always compete, every single day, for a position.”