Jeff McNeil: What Does The Future Hold?

In an 11-8 win over the Nationals yesterday, Jeff McNeil went 4-5 at the plate.

Jeff McNeil now has 4 games in his career where he has recorded 4 hits.

He’s played in 65 games.

Pretty remarkable. Jeff McNeil can flat out hit. Why does it seem like the Mets are always the last to realize that?

After the Mets got off to an 11-1 start in 2018, they took a nosedive towards last place in the NL East standings. They may have wound up there had it not been for the dreadful Miami Marlins.

Degrom leaves another game in 2018 with the score tied 0-0 probably.

I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but i believe the Mets went the entire month of June without scoring a run.

When Todd Frazier went down with an injury, Jeff McNeil’s name was thrown around quite a bit. Why not? He was hitting .368 in Las Vegas after being promoted from Binghamton. Manager Mickey Callaway dismissed that suggestion, saying the Mets view McNeil as “strictly a second baseman.”

You have to laugh sometimes. Instead of pointing out all the games McNeil played at third base in the minors, let’s do this.

Asdrúbal Cabrera was playing second base. José Reyes was playing third base and had played outfield the year before. They were talking about giving Wilmer Flores, the starting 2015 shortstop, reps in the outfield. Dominic Smith was playing in the outfield so Jay Bruce could play first base.

Come on Mickey.

Now, you have to take Callaway’s post game comments with a grain of salt. (Remember his painful performance after the Yankee game discussing Céspedes’ heels?) But what made him say that about McNeil?

Hey, it’s possible that the manager was caught off guard by the question and simply ventured a guess. But, whatever the reason, McNeil remained in the minor leagues in a lost season. José Reyes and Asdrúbal Cabrera, who the Mets were not committed to after 2018, stayed in the lineup.

When McNeil’s prolific hitting finally became impossible to ignore any further, the Mets called him up. He made his debut on July 24, 2018, recorded his first major league hit the same night.

He didn’t stop there.

McNeil was one of the lone bright spots for the Mets in a disappointing 2018 campaign. He batted .329 with a .381 on-base percentage and a .471 slugging in 63 games. He had a 140 OPS-plus and added 11 doubles, six triples and three homers.

The Mets rewarded him by trading for Robinson Canó.

The debates raged. Many felt that McNeil would become the third baseman, and Frazier would see time at first base.

The Mets then traded highly touted prospects (outfielder Ross Adolph, catcher Scott Manea and infielder Luis Santana) for JD Davis. They took it a step further, signing Jed Lowrie to a two year deal.

Jeff “strictly a second baseman” McNeil suddenly became a Ben Zobrist utility type, and was to receive spring training outfield reps.

The theme of this offseason was depth and I get it. Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie have yet to see any game action, further driving home the point. I would just hate to Jeff McNeil become the odd man out.

Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions. Maybe I’m being paranoid. Also, 65 games is a short sample size. Be that as it may, my money is on Jeff McNeil and his elite bat-to-ball skills, and I worry about the playing time.

When Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie return, that’s less at bats for McNeil off the rip.

But, let’s put things in perspective. Robinson Canó is an all-time great second baseman who has already provided more value than Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak in 2018 combined. When healthy, Jed Lowrie is an incredible hitter.

You don’t make the Lowrie or Davis moves if you have confidence in Jeff McNeil though.

Also…

It’s easy to say “let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.” It’s easier to be flippant and say “he’s probably not even gonna come back.”

Yoenis Céspedes is signed through the 2020 season. He’s making 29 million dollars this season and next season. He’s going to play when he returns. Sure, he’ll be eased in at first. But, eventually he’s going to play. Everyday.

Who are you sitting? Nimmo? Conforto?

Show me the path to everyday at bats for McNeil because I don’t see it. And also, “these guys can’t stay healthy,” (while true) isn’t exactly a vote of confidence for McNeil either.

Keep forcing their hand, Jeff. We know you belong.

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