In early June, former Astros front office executive Kevin Goldstein identified Jake Meyers as a sleeper to keep an eye on. At the time, Goldstein, now an analyst for FanGraphs, lauded Meyers’ speed, improved power and viability in center field. Two and a half months later, that report looks rather accurate.
Meyers made his big-league debut on August 1 and has only accrued 56 plate appearances to date, but he’s already produced some compelling data. Putting the gaudy .308/.339/.538 slash line aside, the 25-year-old rookie’s Sprint Speed is 97th percentile and his maximum exit velocity (max EV) is 78th percentile, according to Statcast. Neither requires a large sample size to assess, and both are meaningful going forward.
Sprint Speed is generally accepted at face value, and Meyers’ confirms reports of his plus speed in the minor leagues. Max EV on the other hand is a less simple concept. It’s been written about fairly extensively, with RotoGraphs’ Alex Chamberlain penning an article about it last October. One of the final lines in his piece summates how valuable max EV can be in the short term:
In terms of major takeaways, I think max EV’s utility comes not from its absolute relationship with power and contact quality (which is weaker than other metrics) but, instead, from how quickly we can use it in-season in place of other superior metrics that are not yet reliable.
Regarding the superior metrics that Chamberlain was referring to, Meyers’ Barrel rate (14.3 percent), Hard-hit rate (57.1 percent) and average exit velocity (93.5 mph) are all exceptional — and probably inflated, to varying degrees.
It’s difficult to pinpoint how much regression there will be in this case, but it is nonetheless unavoidable. Sustaining a Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) of 141 is just not realistic for any rookie, especially one without an elite pedigree. But considering the output earlier this season that elevated Meyers’ status — a .343/.408/.598 slash with 16 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 300 plate appearances at Triple-A, his first stint at the level — it’s clear that the Astros’ young outfielder possesses exciting ability.
There’s a great deal of work to be done, as evidenced by a meager walk rate of 3.6 percent and a high strikeout rate that’s north of 30 percent, but impressive batted-ball data, blistering speed and a decent Chase rate that’s around the league average indicate Meyers certainly belongs in The Show.
Like Chas McCormick, Meyers had consistently posted quality strikeout rates in the minors that were either at or below 20 percent. Both have struggled to make contact against major-league pitching, but it’s reasonable to expect that, based on their track records, each should see their poor contact rate subside.
As for Meyers, he doesn’t yet have the 248 big-league PAs that McCormick has, so there is still some mystery surrounding his profile for the time being, but as Goldstein stated in his recent evaluation, Meyers may have the potential to be a capable, second-division starter in center field.
Judging by how he’s fared in his first three-plus weeks as an Astro, and considering the semi-regular playing time he should continue to receive, that eventual outcome appears to be feasible.
The data in this article was compiled via Baseball Savant