A Conversation With Chas McCormick, Who Has Exceeded Expectations

Chas McCormick has already exceeded expectations. A 21st-round pick in the 2017 draft out of Division II Millersville University, the 26-year-old outfielder is getting semi-regular playing time with the Houston Astros, and he’s been sneaky good. His .226 batting average is nothing to write home about, but his 114 wRC+ and 0.5 WAR (as of Sunday night) are those of a rookie contributing to MLB’s highest-scoring team. That couldn’t have been predicted a few years ago — or even a few months ago. Coming into the current campaign, the West Chester, Pennsylvania native was No. 18 on our Astros Top Prospects list.

McCormick discussed his underdog-makes-good story when Houston visited Fenway Park earlier this month.


David Laurila: In many ways, you’re a classic overachiever. What is your background in that respect?

Chas McCormick: “When I was younger, like high school — even before — and maybe a little bit of college, I was never the best. If I had to try out for a team… I wasn’t very good at tryouts. I got cut from some summer-ball teams because I wasn’t the fastest player, I didn’t have the strongest arm, I didn’t hit the ball the farthest. I wasn’t the biggest guy, either. That’s why I really didn’t get Division 1 looks, just a couple Division II, Division III. But the more I played, especially in college, the more people realized that I was a gamer. I wouldn’t take batting practice and have scouts saying, ‘Wow, he’s putting on a show,’ it was more, ‘You’ve got to watch this kid play nine innings.’”

Laurila: When did you realize you had a legitimate shot to play pro ball?

McCormick: “Not in high school. I was thinking about playing basketball in college — or baseball — but again, just Division II, Division III. I wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. So out of high school, I wasn’t really thinking about pro baseball at all. Then I got to college, and that was [as] a pitcher. I was a little erratic and didn’t throw strikes very well, so that ended quickly.

“Anyway, freshman year, an outfielder got hurt and I ended up starting. I played really well — I batted leadoff a couple times and hit close to .340 — but I still didn’t think I could play pro ball because I didn’t really have the power. Then I ended up hitting some home runs in my sophomore year, and had a good average as well — I hit around .350. So after my sophomore year, I was like, ‘You know what? Maybe I could play professional baseball.’”

Laurila: You then didn’t get drafted after your junior year.

McCormick: “I almost did, but they never called my name. The next year, I was drafted in the 21st round and was a senior sign.”

Laurila: What happened in your junior year?

McCormick: “The Astros called and said, ‘Hey, we’ll draft you in 25th round for a certain amount of money.’ I said, ‘Ok, cool. Perfect.’ But they never called my name. That kind of gave me some motivation in my senior year.”

Laurila: I can imagine that left a sour taste in your mouth.

McCormick: “I was really upset after my junior year. I’d played the best I’d ever played [.412/.488/.525], we went 52–8 as a team, and we had four guys get drafted. So I definitely had a sour taste in my mouth. But again, that had me super motivated going into my senior year.”

Laurila: Did you ever find out what happened?

McCormick: “They called and said, ‘Hey, we didn’t have enough roster space.’ That was kind of why I didn’t get drafted, which is understandable.”

Laurila: The Astros drafting you a year later must have come as a surprise.

McCormick: “It wasn’t a surprise that I got drafted, and in a way it wasn’t even a surprise that it was the Astros. At the same time, they didn’t talk to me all senior year, so I thought they’d kind of given up on me. I barely got any… like, my senior year I had a little mini-workout with the Mets, and the Angels were kind of like, ‘Hey, what’s your contact information?’ That was about it. Anyway, the 21st round came around and I saw the Astros had selected me. I was like, ‘Oh, cool.’”

Laurila: Did you get the news via a phone call from your signing scout?

McCormick: “I was at my older brother’s baseball facility — he’s a manager at a place called All-Star Baseball Academy — and we were sitting around by the computer, waiting. Finally, we saw my name pop up. Right after that, I got a call saying, ‘Hey, we’re signing you for $1,000.'”

Laurila: What your reaction when you saw your name pop up?

McCormick: “My brother was actually the first one who saw my name on the computer, so he kind of gave me a pat and said, ‘Hey.’ Then we kind of jumped around and did a high-five.”

Laurila: Jumping to the here-and now, do you ever think about where you are now and pinch yourself?

McCormick: “Yeah. I mean, it’s been about two-and-a-half months, three months, and definitely. This is surreal. At the same time, it’s the same game, It’s the same playground. I’ve been playing baseball my whole life, so when I’m in the batter’s box — a big-league batter’s box — or when I’m in the outfield, it feels like I’m playing college baseball or minor league baseball. There’s obviously more pressure, and there are more people in the stands. The players are better. But it’s still baseball.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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