If you missed Jeff McNeil bursting onto the scene in 2018, you missed the one of the best things about the entire New York Mets season. McNeil is built from a thread that could have been weaved from Billy Beane himself. Before having success in the major leagues, McNeil was a 12th round draft pick of Sandy Alderson in 2013, and had injury issues throughout his climb to the majors. Known for his ability to hit, and the odd, knob-less bat that he uses as his tool to do it. Whether it was his ability to hit all over the field or the tool that he used to do it, the Mets were 37-26 after he was called up.
McNeil had several qualities besides using a knob-less bat that made him one of the best Mets hitters from last season. To start, he was a fantastic hitter when he was tasked with batting with two strikes. Following 0-1 counts in at bats, McNeil batted .305, which is a testament to how effective he was last season. In comparison, Michael Conforto hit .229, and Brandon Nimmo sliced a measly .243. Because of his ability to hit in multiple counts allowed Mickey Calloway to flex McNeil in every lineup spot except for the lead-off and clean-up roles last season.
McNeil’s bat was necessary when the Mets had him in the lineup last season and they won games. When McNeil was in the lineup for Mets victories, he slugged a batting average of .412, in which he drove in 15 of his 19 runs batted in. This is a stark contrast to his batting average in losses, which was a lowly .202. Clearly, the Mets needed McNeil to boost their offense in the games that he was in the lineup.
A large part of McNeil’s game included him leading off innings. When leading off an inning, McNeil hit .354. Possibly the most impressive part of his ability to bat well in the beginning of an inning was that he hit three triples when being in the position to do so. While Nimmo has the leadoff position basically cemented, having another player who is adept at starting an inning is extremely useful.
While he is good at a lot of things, McNeil is not a perfect baseball player. Against left-handed starting pitchers, McNeil batted .250, and had none of his 19 RBIs. Against left-handed starters, McNeil also acquired the least total bases, 15, and an OPS of .693. McNeil received limited time against left-handed starters in 2018 however, putting up only 45 at bats. He’ll get more at bats this season, with him serving as a super utility, so before analyzing if it is a critical problem of his he needs to receive more at bats.
These at bats will be harder for McNeil to come by during the 2019 season with the recent signing of Jed Lowrie. McNeil now likely will play the role of a super fill-in during the season, meaning that he will slip into any of the infield spots when a starter is out. Whether he starts or comes off the bench though, McNeil will prove to swing a pivotal bat during the 2019 season.