Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Getting to Know Buies Creek OF Chas McCormick

Buies Creek OF Chas McCormick did not spend much time in rookie ball after he was drafted by the Astros in the 21st round in 2017 out of Millersville University of Pennsylvania, one of only 11 players drafted from that institution (thus far). McCormick held his college record for hits, runs, RBI and triples so it was no surprise that he tore up the Appalachian League in the eight games he played at the level, but it was somewhat of a surprise that he was given a promotion directly to High A Buies Creek from rookie league, a short-lived assignment that saw him back with Low A Quad Cities for the remainder of the season.

Chas McCormick - May 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

When I spoke with McCormick earlier this month, I asked him about how that early challenge to A ball helped him to become a better hitter. "I started off in Greeneville. I'm only there for two weeks. I really hit the ball well there, but that was rookie ball pitching. I got a lot of fastballs and I'm a good fastball hitter so I thought it was pretty easy honestly so I got moved up to High A right at first and that's where I started to see not just fastballs, but sliders for strikes, changeups for strikes and that's where it got hard. I said to myself, 'I'm not ready for this pitching just yet.' I was only at High A for four days and I got sent down which was OK because I wasn't ready for the High A pitching at all. So I got sent down to Quad Cities and I struggled there which I wasn't surprised (because) it's pretty much the same pitching. I struggled, struggled and then I finally started to get adjusted to A ball pitching," said McCormick.

He continued, "I think what helped me was just getting into deeper counts, not swinging at as many bad pitches -- just trying to figure out what pitch to sit on in what counts and what situation. Because rookie ball is a little different honestly. It was just kind of free swinging, going up there and (looking for) fastballs. In High A plus Quad Cities, there were more fastballs down, sliders away, changeups in and two-seams (that's the first time I saw two-seams and cutters too). All those pitches were not in rookie ball and when I started to see that, that's what I struggled on. All those cutters, two-seams. And I finally got adjusted to it. As any hitter, that's how you can get adjusted to it. You've got to keep seeing it. You've got to put better at-bats up. Towards the end of the season in Quad Cities, that's when I started to get hot, started to get adjusted to it. And honestly, just getting in deeper counts, I think all in all that's helped me wait for my pitches and hit my balls in the gap. I think that's what really helped me was seeing pitches, seeing more pitches."

And when McCormick started the 2018 season with High A Buies Creek, he was much more prepared for the challenge. Part of that he attributes to being able to work with Ben Rosenthal again this season. Rosenthal was the Quad Cities hitting coach in 2017 and is now working in that same capacity for Buies Creek in 2018. That continuity has seemed to help McCormick. "I think he's really helped me develop into a better hitter, more of a power hitter, gap-to-gap hitter, more of a doubles guy than a singles guy."

Something else that helped McCormick get acclimated to professional baseball in 2017 was the opportunity to see how other players prepared, something he had previously given little thought. McCormick said, "Just watching the older guys, like Myles Straw, and even watching [Josh] Rojas, how they prepare before their games and how they get ready to go. Everyone has a different preparation. Just knowing some of the guys have routines. I didn't ever have a routine before hitting, before going into games. I never had a routine. I'd just pick up my bat and just go and just swing, swing in BP and be ready to go." But seeing Rojas's routine and the subsequent results opened McCormick's eyes, "That's how he would be so consistent. That's why he's a good hitter. So even just getting into routines before for your preparation, whatever routine works before games, I think that's really helpful."

I asked McCormick what a scout might tell me about him. He replied, "He's a good athlete. He likes to compete. He likes to battle. I'm a ballplayer. That's what I can do a good job at. I can really put my body out on the line, really play hard. And, yeah, everyone likes to play hard and everyone wants to play hard. And those are some good things about me -- an athlete, like to compete, battle, play hard and give it your all, like 100%, every game. And that's what I try to do every time. That's a good plus for me."

And McCormick was refreshingly candid in pointing out the biggest flaw in his game, "I think the negative for me, honestly, is specifically my swing. Sometimes I'm a streaky hitter. I get in bad habits. And don't get me wrong. I can drive the ball. I can hit doubles. I'm fast too. But when I get up to the plate and I get in my streaks where I hit a bunch of ground balls and I swing at bad pitches, that's a negative about me. Specifically, at the plate. I think I can do everything else just fine. And they say my swing decisions are good because I swing at strikes, yeah, but sometimes I swing at strikes that aren't pitches that I can drive. I think that's a negative for me."

Defensively, McCormick characterized himself this way, "I'm fast. I get to the ball pretty quickly. I get good jumps. I think I'm good at that. I've got a good arm. I get it in quick. Charging a ball when a runner's trying to score and throwing him out, that's what I need to work on most."

I also sat down with Rosenthal to get his take on McCormick. "Good kid, gamer, baseball player, athletic. Just trying to make a couple of mechanical tweaks but great energy. Great energy kid, has a good time. I think that's going to take him a long way because he has fun and he plays hard. He's athletic to make some of the changes and the mechanical tweaks that we're trying to get him to make and he's sneaky strong. You don't think he's got juice and he'll hit a ball (hard). He's got some strength in there. He's got some ceiling and some growing (to do), but good kid. Like a dirty baseball rat. The little kid that's always dirty," said Rosenthal.

And I think that "baseball rat" persona came to him naturally as one of four very competitive brothers who played baseball, basketball and football with each other growing up. This closeness with his brothers, two older brothers and an identical twin, led him to a love for sports, "I like to stay around sports. I like to be outside and hang out. That's why I love baseball."

Aside from hanging out with family, you may find McCormick at the mall, the bowling alley or the golf course. It is difficult to imagine how his degree in social work (his mother's profession) might come into play for him as he readily admits, "It's always been sports."

It will likely always be sports for McCormick in one way or another. He works hard, but he so obviously enjoys every minute of the experience, both on and off the field, that it is somewhat infectious. There is no denying that his energy and his enthusiasm elevate his level of play. Simply put, McCormick is a lot of fun to watch.

Thank you for your time, Chas, and best of luck as the season continues to unfold.

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