What, exactly, is Jeff McNeil?

Your intrepid columnist was at the Mets/Braves game this past Saturday. It was a terrific 3-0, five-hit shutout twirled by Zack Wheeler and friends, probably the most fun at Citi Field since Opening Day. Amid all the hoopla surrounding Wheeler’s mound performance, it took a little nudging to realize, “Hey! Jeff McNeil went four-for-four.” In so doing, he raised his batting average from .190 to .320. He got another hit on Sunday, then went three-for-four on Monday, bringing him up to .364. In the last two games, he’s gone oh-for-seven, dropping him to an even .300.

Who is this guy?

McNeil is one of those classic “under-the-radar” players. He was a twelfth round draft pick out of Long Beach State in 2013. He did what you would expect a college player to do in the low minors: outhit his younger competition. At every advancement, there would be a stumble, followed by an adjustment to the better pitching. He sustained an injury in 2016, limiting him to two starts at second base and one at third and only 12 at bats for AA Binghamton. He had to backtrack to high-A Port St. Lucie to start 2017 – where again, old for his League, he tore the cover off the ball — then jumped up to AAA Las Vegas where he didn’t really show anything special offensively. In Las Vegas. Think about it. He started this year back in Binghamton, but a funny thing happened. When he was promoted to Las Vegas this time, he kept on hitting. His OPS in AA in 2018 was 1.029. In AAA, it was 1.027. With the big team struggling, it was almost a foregone conclusion that he would be called to the Majors. He was, on July 24.

OK, so those are the numbers. What about the eye test? From here, he’s got a nice swing. He doesn’t walk much – just five times in fifty plate appearances — so his OBP & OPS are going to be hit driven. On defense, he can be called “average,” but he doesn’t seem to have a terribly strong arm: not a huge drawback for a second baseman, though it hampers his abilities in the pivot on double plays. One is reminded of a young Daniel Murphy: a fairly polished hitter without a real position at the outset. Ten years ago, Murphy made his debut, zooming in seemingly out of nowhere, to contribute to an ultimately futile stretch drive. He was a pup of 23 at the time and had no position, so manager Jerry Manuel stuck him in left field. Eventually, he would find his way to second base, of course, but it was clear he was around for his bat. McNeil might be in a similar situation: second baseman by default. He is also arriving in the majors at age 26, a little long in the tooth for an impact rookie. Really, it’s still early; we may not know what we have here until next spring.

We’ll just have to try and notice him a little better.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

23 comments for “What, exactly, is Jeff McNeil?

  1. Eraff
    August 9, 2018 at 7:13 am

    10% walk rate…less than 15% K rate in MILB…neither wavered with the power surge.

    Too many Dan Murphy comps–Wilmer, McNeil—even Dan Murphy at 23 cannot be comped to Dan Murphy at 30….very different hitter.

    The observation that a mediocre 2b can make it with his bat????…I can pretty safely say that there are about Zero Glove Only 2bmen with big careers in today’s game

  2. b
    August 9, 2018 at 7:51 am

    another tj rivera ?

  3. Rick
    August 9, 2018 at 9:43 am

    Hey, I’m sure if this kid is anything like Daniel Murphy the Mess will screw this up somehow and treat him like a cancer, bash him every chance they get, insult him with an offer, then let him go to another team within the division and he’ll come back to make NY regret ever letting him go. He’s a great kid to watch and I enjoy seeing him hit but as always, these “expert” writers and moronic front office personnel will find ways to rip him apart and devalue him and try to get us to think he’s not a major league player until he comes back to city morgue in another uniform.

    • b
      August 9, 2018 at 11:18 am

      stop crying over murph

    • TexasGusCC
      August 9, 2018 at 1:19 pm

      Good one Rick.

      b, go get a massage or something. You seem to rag on people because, of course, you know better.

  4. TJ
    August 9, 2018 at 10:35 am

    Getting to the majors at age 26 is no big deal when he missed almost two seasons due to injury. He most certainly needs to play regularly for the rest of this season for evaluation, and is clearly part of the 2019
    Mix notwithstanding the acquisition of a superior 2b. But, if he flashes very weak defense I think he should only be viewed as a reserve. They have to improve infield, centerfield, and catching defense significantly. For the future.

  5. August 9, 2018 at 11:01 am

    I want to like McNeil.

    But we’ve seen this type of guy – older, no true defensive home infielder who relies on his bat to get by. Josh Satin, Zach Lutz, Eric Campbell, Danny Muno and Ty Kelly are among the ones to fit the bill.

    McNeil’s power surge maybe gives him something else. Might as well get him in the lineup as often as possible to find out. But they need to give Luis Guillorme more of a shot down the stretch, too. I’d like to see him get more shots at 2B and SS than 3B going forward.

    • August 9, 2018 at 11:15 am

      My point.

    • vic suede
      August 9, 2018 at 12:34 pm

      Satin, Lutz, Campbell, Muno, Kelly?? Not one of them ever showed me half of what McNeil has. If this guy is healthy and given a chance i think he will show to be a very solid player. No way a comparison to those other guys..
      but we’ll see

      • August 9, 2018 at 5:34 pm

        Yeah… nobody on that list was anything to write home about at any point. McNeil was tearing it up in the minors all year and hasn’t stopped in Queens.

        Let him play the season out and consider signing an elite catcher and centerfielder to supplement his lack of defense

        • Chris F
          August 9, 2018 at 5:59 pm

          Sure, lets let him play. Im on board. But worth giving reality its due here. The likelihood this is who he is just doesnt comport with reality. It is worth finding out though.

          Daniel Murphy…please folks…the idea everyone that is let go is Murph is utter insanity. Murph wasnt even Murph. If he played a lick like he has for the Nats, well, he would have been offered more than the QO. No person in their right mind thinks what he did in the DS and CS would be who he is, esp given his WS.

        • August 9, 2018 at 8:19 pm

          Muno was not anything to be excited about. But the rest were performing significantly better in the minors than you recall.

          Kelly had an .844 OPS
          Lutz had a .905 OPS
          Satin had a .962 OPS
          Campbell had a .967 OPS

      • Name
        August 10, 2018 at 1:51 am

        “Satin, Lutz, Campbell, Muno, Kelly?? Not one of them ever showed me half of what McNeil has. If this guy is healthy and given a chance i think he will show to be a very solid player. No way a comparison to those other guys.”

        McNeil has a .917 OPS thru 50 PA right now. Some of those you named had early quick success too that didn’t result in anything long term.

        Satin – While he had a smal September stint in 2011 and 1 PA in 2012, in 2013 he got his first real chance and managed to put up a .900 OPS for his first 103 PA.
        Campbell – .803 OPS over his first 43 games (21 GS)
        You can even add Valdespin to that list, who posted a .903 OPS in his first 101 PA.

    • Mike Walczak
      August 9, 2018 at 5:51 pm

      We rush to judgement way too quickly on these players. Mike Trout hit .220 his first year.

      But would rather see what young players have rather than the parade of old junk thay the Mets put out there.

  6. b
    August 9, 2018 at 11:03 am

    guillomore no

  7. Madman
    August 9, 2018 at 11:16 am

    Guillorme is a good field no hit infielder in the 70s-80s mode so where do the Mets play him? 3B! Austin Jackson is a huge upgrade over Conforto,Nimmo in center but stats show he is a below average CFer. Rosario besides not hitting has played a poor shortstop. Maybe Callaway and the new GM will put more emphasis on defense.

  8. b
    August 9, 2018 at 11:20 am

    amed is staying

  9. b
    August 9, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    silly response

  10. MattyMets
    August 9, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    Tired of seeing the organization with hitters who can’t field (Flores, Murphy, Duda, McNeil, Alonso), fielders who can’t hit (Tejada, Plawecki, Guillermo) prospects who don’t develop (Rosario, Smith) and players who can’t stay healthy (Lagares, Matz, Wheeler, d’Arnaud). Hopefully this is the real deal now with at least Nimmo and Conforto turning the corner for good. Need more players like that. Seeing how organizations like the Braves, Yankees and Cardinals develop young players makes me envious and frustrated as a Mets fan.

    • Chris F
      August 9, 2018 at 6:03 pm

      I think the verdict is still out on both Conforto and Nimmo.

  11. Pete from NJ
    August 9, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    Sometimes a minor leaguer drops out of the sky and lands on his feat. Just reading about the Dodger’s Max Muncy who dropped down from an even higher altitude landing on his feat.

    The problem with McNeal is you just can’t plan on his success for next year which necessitates a Plan B or a Plan B-. That theory leads to Matt’s remarks about Atlanta’s successful with real young successful position players. Anyone to compare Albies/Acuna vs Andres Gimenez?

  12. August 10, 2018 at 2:12 am

    I saw McNeil when Savana visited Hickory in to 2014. He was hitting in in the 300s. He was a good player on the Savannah team. My impression was he was a skinny kid .The Mets may have a future second basemen . The Mets should play McNeil every day. The Mets maybe the surprise for 2019 everyday second baseman..

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