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Jake Meyers has picked up where he left off

The Astros center fielder is producing at similar levels to 2021, though he is still with the shortcomings that were exposed during his rookie campaign.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Offseason shoulder surgery delayed Jake Meyers’ 2022 debut, but since his return on June 24, he’s more or less sustained the pace he set in 2021 as a rookie, when he slashed .260/.323/.438 (111 wRC+) with six home runs and three stolen bases in 163 plate appearances, in addition to playing a plus center field.

Entering Friday, the righty-swinging, lefty-throwing outfielder carries a .267/.308/.400 line (102 wRC+) through his first 65 big-league plate appearances of 2022.

Meyers’ addition not only upgrades the outfield in terms of quality but gives it more stability as well, especially given that the player he replaced, the exciting but extremely volatile Jose Siri, had been receiving playing time on a fairly regular basis.

It’s clear that the 26-year-old Meyers is Dusty Baker’s man in center, as he’s started 17 of the last 19 games since being activated. Though the sophomore center fielder is identical both physically and statistically to Chas McCormick — who is also in his second year — Meyers does seem and appear to be more at home in center than McCormick, who has shown he can play the hell out of either corner.

Defense is the most valuable aspect of Meyers’ game, but since he possesses a surprisingly broad assortment of tools, his ceiling is something that remains somewhat of an unknown, as before 2021, the former 13th-round pick was considered by evaluators to essentially be a non-prospect.

Even in FanGraphs’ pre-season rankings of Astros prospects — a list that provided either scouting reports or brief notes on 61 names — Meyers did not garner a mention.

It’s a testament to the Astros’ invaluable player development that they’ve conjured up seemingly out of nowhere a player that looks the part of an everyday center fielder, particularly in the wake of George Springer’s departure in free agency.

Meyers’ defense should continue to be a significant strength, but his bat is not without question marks, namely in the walks/strikeouts department.

Drawing walks has increasingly become a key facet of hitting, as it’s simply easier to get on base that way as opposed to consistently making quality contact against high-octane pitching, of which there seems to be more and more each year. But it’s not a necessity for someone who can hit for a reasonably high average, such as Meyers.

With that said, his career 13-to-70 walk-to-strikeout ratio is far from ideal, if not just plain bad.

A .262 career batting average across 228 combined plate appearances in 2021 and 2022 indicates that the hit tool is at least competent, but making contact has been and is still a challenge for Meyers. He finished 2021 with a 30.7 percent strikeout rate and has yet to display improvement in that arena (30.8 K% in 2022), though he is still getting his bearings this year.

On one hand, a career .359 BABIP is likely unsustainable, but on the other, a career xBA of .244 — despite all the strikeouts — signals that Meyers has some bat-to-ball skills. Moreover, an above-average 9.3 percent Barrel rate likely confirms that his power surge in 2021 — a year where he hit 22 home runs in Triple-A and the major leagues combined — could be here to stay.

For good measure, a quality Sweet Spot percentage is further evidence that Meyers has a propensity for making the right kind of contact when he does connect.

So long as his chase rate continues to at least hover around the league average — which should eventually result in higher walk rates — it’s an offensive profile that could feasibly remain an average one, which would be more than adequate when coupled with high-quality defense from a premium position.

It’s still early in his career, but the early returns on Meyers are promising overall. The glove is for real, and as he gets more reps against big-league pitching, the more will be known about the quality of his bat.