Jeff McNeil is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Mets

Back in the last century the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield was known for his tag line “ I don’t get no respect.” After the off-season that Mets infielder Jeff McNeil has endured, it would be no surprise if he felt the same way.

McNeil, a rookie last year, was the Met second baseman for the latter part of the season and he responded with terrific numbers. In 63 games he slashed .329/.381/.471. Then in early November new GM Brodie Van Wagenen was quoted by Anthony DiComo as saying McNeil was “penciled in to start at 2b” in the coming season. So far, so good for McNeil.

However, within a few weeks that same Van Wagenen had swung a major deal that brought in veteran second baseman Robinson Cano from Seattle. Suddenly McNeil’s spot no longer seemed so secure, and his name was bandied about for awhile as a potential piece for the Mets to trade away.

McNeill fell even further down the totem pole in December. Manager Mickey Callaway said that Cano was slated to start at 2b in 2019, that “as we stand here, Todd Frazier will be starting at third base,” and Callaway then indicated McNeil would be the primary backup at the four infield positions.

Cano had a pretty good slash line of .303/.374/.471 in 80 games in 2018, a little behind McNeil’s production. As for Frazier, his output in 2018 was a dismal .213/.303/.390 in 115 games. Callaway could have said there would be competition for the starting infield slots in spring training, instead he chose to anoint the two veterans (and ex-Van Wagenen clients) as the presumed starters.

The now departed Jose Reyes filled the role of utility infielder for the Mets in 2018, and he accumulated 251 PA. Last year McNeil, who joined the team in July and became the starting 2b at the end of the month, had almost as many PA (248) as Reyes did over the whole season. So, assuming those figures are a rough guide as to the playing time of utility infielders on the Mets, McNeil is going to get a lot less PA in 2019 than he would have as starting infielder.

McNeil does not project to be a slugger, but he is a contact hitter who hits to all fields, with roughly 35% of his balls hit pulled, also 35% to center, and 29% to the opposite field. He had a decent line drive rate of 21.6%. He does not strike out much with a 9.7% K rate. The left-handed McNeil was not overmatched by lefty pitchers in 2018, he batted .281 against them. Versus right-handers he hit even better at .345.

He did not have a reputation as a great defender at 2b in the minors, but he flashed some good glove work with the Mets, FanGraphs had him at a positive UZR figure of 0.7 in his abbreviated season. McNeil provides some speed on the basepaths, a quality lacking on recent Mets teams. He stole seven bases in his 63 games played in 2018, and was caught stealing just once. McNeil hustles running out balls, something Cano apparently is not as dedicated to.

Nobody would say McNeil deserves to be treated like a perennial All-Star, but he should get more respect than to be demoted to utility infielder without much of a chance to compete for a starting berth.

11 comments for “Jeff McNeil is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Mets

  1. December 18, 2018 at 10:21 am

    Mets always seem to do bad internal scouting and underrate and block their promising young players like Nimmo and McNeil.

    • Dan
      December 18, 2018 at 10:49 am

      They refused to trade McNeil in the Cano trade.
      He will take over 3b before the year is over.
      3b is open for him next year

      • MattyMets
        December 18, 2018 at 8:14 pm

        Dan, that’s what I was thinking only now there’s a rumor that BVW is kicking the tires on Moose Tacos. Just when we balanced the lineup a bit we’re looking at another lefty? And at a position that’s already plugged? Without giving it much thought I’m gonna go ahead and say that’s a terrible idea. A one position player at a spot where we have two. If the Mets add another bat it should be an outfielder or Swiss Army knife and preferably a righty or switch hitter.

        • December 18, 2018 at 8:47 pm

          Yes, Yes, Yes

  2. Eraff
    December 18, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    McNeill is 27 years old with less than 500 lifetime ab’s spread over a couple of seasons…he’s now hard wired to an MLB roster with what appears to be a contending team.

    The Utility role is recently realized and enlarged across MLB…a result of expanded Bullpens and shorter benches. Guys like Zobrist and Harrison and Marwyn Gonzalez have become very important pieces….guys who get 500 or so plate appearances and who are indispensable and productive across multiple roles—- Is this News????

    I’m sure McNeill is Thrilled. If He can be successful, He’s going to make a lot of money over the next 5-8 years. Hardly a “Demotion”!

    • Chris F
      December 18, 2018 at 12:15 pm

      Correct Eraff. People way to high on McNeil on a small sample size. I mean it would be awesome if he was Ted Williams, but more than likely when 40 points comes off the BABIP, the shine wont be quite as bright. Nevertheless, I love McNeil. right now, he’s a utility guy. If I were his agent, I’d give him first baseman’s mitt and and OF glove for Christmas. The sheer drive and enthusiasm he has is so much fin to watch. I dont think hes goon find himself stuck at 1 postition as a big leaguer…and there isnt one thing wrong with that. He still gets 450-550 ABs next year.

  3. December 18, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    I like McNeil a lot but fear that he’s being put into a role that he’s not cut out to fill. From what we saw in 2018 he’s a guy who can play an acceptable 2B but he looked like a fish out of water at 3B. I imagine he’ll be rather pathetic at 1B or in an outfield corner.
    Hopefully the problems he may bring into the field won’t affect how well he rakes.

  4. TexasGusCC
    December 18, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    Two things:
    At this point, McNeil is more penciled in to be the starting left fielder to start the season, and whenever Cespedes comes back, McNeil can cover for whatever hitter is failing (everyone knows who I’m thinking of, but surprises happen).

    My favorite commercial ever is the Lite Beer commercial where the guys are bowling, the game is tied, Dangerfield is the last bowler, and Ben Davidson tells Rodney Dangerfield “All we need is one pin Rodney”. We see Dangerfield in his approach, he bowls it down the lane, and it bounces off the head pin into the gutter and the game stays tied and everyone is mad at Rodney. It was hysterical! It perfectly personified Dangerfield’s schtick.

    • MattyMets
      December 18, 2018 at 9:16 pm

      https://youtu.be/J6SBtg9VQ9M

      Here you go, Gus.

      • TexasGusCC
        December 18, 2018 at 9:39 pm

        Awesome Matt!! I loved it. It was better than the memory. I forgot the triple strike by Deacon Jones.

        • Metsense
          December 19, 2018 at 9:59 am

          Matt +1

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