The Trade Deadline is firmly in the rearview mirror, and the Astros were able to address a few concerns, namely beefing up the lineup (Trey Mancini) and fortifying the catcher position (Christian Vázquez). While these acquisitions were not considered a big splash, Mancini and Vázquez raised the floor of an already promising roster. But James Click didn’t address every position of need, with center field likely representing the weakest link on the active roster. But with the trade of Jose Siri to the Rays as part of the Mancini acquisition, Click gave Jake Meyers a vote of confidence for the second season in a row. In other words, as long as health permits, Meyers is the preferred center fielder of the organization.
Although flawed, the Astros wouldn’t part with Myles Straw and Siri in consecutive deadlines if they didn’t believe in Meyers for the long-term. His production at the plate last season (.260/.323/.438 in 163 PA), in addition to his defensive abilities, received plenty of attention and inspired hope for the future at the position. Even accounting for his propensity to strikeout (30.7 percent), the upside was plain to see, especially if his increased power numbers continued to translate in the majors.
But Meyers’ labral tear in his left shoulder from last year’s ALDS and subsequent recovery from surgery placed him in the unenviable position of playing catch up for the 2022 season. As such, his offensive numbers have dived with a 66 wRC+ in 111 plate appearances, with his strikeout rising by nearly 3.5 percent. Elevated fastballs thrown in the upper regions of the zone, in particular, have given Meyers fits this year.
It also doesn’t help matters when he is chasing and missing more on anything thrown high or low inside, regardless of pitch classification.
This decline in plate discipline also accompanies a sharp decrease in quality outcomes when he makes contact, further limiting Meyers’ offensive value. Last season, a 10.1 percent barrel rate helped drive his numbers as a hitter, but his current 4.5 percent rate now hampers his value. While the drop in quality contact might be related to his shoulder, Meyers won’t see meaningful improvement until his pitch recognition improves, at least somewhat. After all, he doesn’t draw enough walks to become much of a threat in that manner. His drop in barrels in 2022 may force Meyers to compensate in other areas, causing him to press more than he would like and abandon caution when it comes to chasing pitches.
The question facing the Astros from now on is how much time they give Meyers to figure out his issues at the plate. Chas McCormick’s splits against right-handers (94 wRC+) and left-handers (151 wRC+) likely keep him from the full-time gig in center field as long as Dusty Baker is the manager, justified or not. In recent games, we’ve already seen Mauricio Dubón receive more playing time in center field, which might become the primary trend if Meyers doesn’t improve in the short term. Even with Click’s support, Houston is one of the favorites in the American League, and the postseason is roughly two short months away. The clock is ticking for Meyers to salvage his 2022 season.