Meyers seeks to prove worthy of starting job

February 17th, 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.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- was one of the first position players to report to Astros camp this year, arriving about a week before the position players’ report date. The fact that he was anointed the team’s starting center fielder a month earlier did nothing to change Meyers’ mindset entering 2024.

“I’m excited for the opportunity,” he said. “I feel like I’ve put in the work, not even over the season but in the course of my career, for this. I’m just excited they are giving me the opportunity and I’m ready to go.”

The decision to name Meyers as the starter stemmed from the Astros directing their offseason focus on finding a backup catcher and relief pitching instead of adding an outfielder. Plus, Meyers is a terrific defensive outfielder, possessing great range and a strong arm. Houston’s hope is his erratic bat can come around with consistent playing time.

With Meyers in center and Kyle Tucker in right, Chas McCormick will start in left field. He’ll also play center when designated hitter Yordan Alvarez starts in left. McCormick said the commitment the club made to Meyers and himself was appreciated.

“They should believe in [us],” McCormick said.

Astros general manager Dana Brown announced at the Winter Meetings that Meyers was going to get a chance to show what he can do in center field. The Astros have star players at nearly every spot on the field, with Tucker, Alvarez, Alex Bregman at third, Jose Altuve at second, José Abreu at first and 2022 World Series MVP Jeremy Peña at shortstop. Catcher Yainer Diaz was fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting last year and could be a breakout star in ’24.

Then there’s Meyers, the broad-shouldered Nebraskan who started a team-high 87 games in center in 2023 and slashed .227/.296/.382 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs. His playing time plummeted at the end of the season when Michael Brantley returned from injury, and Meyers didn’t see the field in the postseason (he wasn’t on the ALCS roster).

“It’s awesome to feel that support from the top [of the organization], but it’s about showing up every day and grinding and trusting the process,” Meyers said. “Whatever I can do to help the team win is really what I’m focused on.”

Meyers, 27, had a solid rookie debut in 49 games in 2021 and emerged as the team’s starting center fielder in the playoffs that year before injuring his left shoulder making a catch in Game 4 of the ALDS. He had surgery to repair a torn labrum and didn’t return to the Astros until June 24, 2022, striking out 50 times in 150 plate appearances. Astros manager Dusty Baker thought Meyers came back too soon.

Meyers is a couple of years removed from surgery and healthy. And now he’s got another opportunity to establish himself on one of the deepest teams in baseball. How long the Astros decide to stick with Meyers will depend on his offensive production, which will be a focus this spring. Meyers’ expected batting average, average exit velocity and hard-hit percent were all in the bottom five percent in the big leagues last year.

“That’s just the focus, on hitting the ball hard and with good direction and things like that,” he said. “Just very simple things that I know will turn into better results on the field and trying to focus on that rather than trying to create results or create something.”