Today we kick off our ninth year of doing individual projections for the top players on the Mets. My hope is that everyone will weigh in on what they think the player will do in 2021. You’ll have more credibility later on about how you “knew” what Player X was going to do this year if you say it before the games start. Recently, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told the clubs to prepare for a 162-game season. So, these forecasts will assume the same.

In a change from previous years, let’s give the computer forecasts right away. Not all of the systems are available yet at FanGraphs but we’ll use what’s posted. Also, found a new system to track. Each forecast will now include projections from RotoChamp (RC). It’s nice to have another option to consider but RC gives AB and not PA in it’s forecast. For the PA section for RC, we’ll add AB + BB, which will get us in the right ballpark for most players.

We’re going to start with Jeff McNeil, simply because it doesn’t seem like there’s been a lot of discussion about him so far this offseason. Here are the forecasts from the computer models:

Marcel – 539 PA, .298/.368/.475, 17 HR, 64 RBIs
RotoCh – 522 PA, .314/.380/.497, 17 HR, 68 RBIs
Steamer – 665 PA, .286/..353/.455, 19 HR, 89 RBIs
ZiPS – 581 PA, .297/.362/.464, 16 HR, 70 RBIs

For a guy who’s been in the majors a couple of years now, the computer models have some difference of opinion. The RBIs for Steamer and the OPS (.877) for RC stand out from the others. And perhaps it’s not surprising that there isn’t more agreement with McNeil, because it doesn’t seem like he knows himself what type of hitter he wants to be. On top of that, it’s certainly not set in stone where he’ll hit in the lineup, which will certainly influence his RBI opportunities.

Down the stretch in 2019, McNeil had a Daniel Murphy-like transformation, where he looked to pull the ball for power rather than flick singles to the opposite field. It hurt his AVG but it was a tradeoff worth making because his OPS went up, even with a .258 BABIP in his final 42 games that season.

McNeil suffered a wrist injury at the end of 2019 and those are notorious for sapping power. Whether it was the wrist, the weird Covid year or a conscious decision by McNeil – he went 33 games without hitting a homer at the start of 2020. Since there were only 60 games played, you can see how this might be a drag on his power numbers.

Then he homered in four straight games. And just to complete the wackiness of the season, McNeil had just 3 XBH – all doubles – in his final 15 games and 62 PA. He finished the year with a .311 AVG, which is pretty good but also his worst mark in the majors to date. McNeil ended the season with a .143 ISO, which was almost the exact same mark (.142) he posted in his rookie year of 2018.

So, should we believe in the power he showed down the stretch in 2019 and for one week in 2020? Or was that merely short sample flukes both times? For what it’s worth, McNeil hit for both AVG and power in the minors in 2018. But when he was promoted to the majors, he sacrificed power.

It’s my belief that the power is real. No, he’s no threat to challenge Pete Alonso for the team lead in homers. But there’s no reason he couldn’t post numbers similar to what Murphy did with the Nationals in 2016-17. Here’s my totally biased forecast for McNeil:

593 PA, .322/.384/.569, 23 HR, 95 RBIs

My hope/expectation is that McNeil bats third in the lineup. If that happens all season, the RBI number could be even higher.

13 comments on “Mets 2021 projections: Jeff McNeil

  • Wobbit

    McNeil is a solid hitter, and he will benefit from his third year in the majors and in the Mets’ improved lineup. One way he can benefit is to focus on his role in the lineup. HRs are nice, but .320 hitters are more rare and more nice: More base hits means more ABs for the team, more pitches thrown for the opposing team, and perhaps more series won.
    He seems to be injury prone, which may be compounded playing 2B all season. The trait which can improve is his patience at the plate. First ball hitters have some advantages, but generally speaking, hitters are more productive by seeing more pitches. My prediction for McNeil:
    504 PA, .317/.390/.525, 21 HR, 82 RBIs

  • Woodrow

    First where does he bat? If he bats 2nd or 3rd he could be something.
    550ABS,310/375/525 28hrs 80 rbis. All Star 2B after a great start. A solid MVP candidate.

  • footballhead

    It’s interesting that you see McNeil batting 3rd in the 2021 lineup as envisioned with the personal at hand. I’ve come to that conclusion myself, especially if McNeil’s power is legitimate from here on out. I agree with Wobbit though, that a higher batting avg. is desirable but that he’ll sacrifice that for more power if batting 3rd. I do concur that the chance of injury for him will be much higher at 2B, so I believe his PA will be lessen. Will he show more patience at the plate? Not sure. Since I envision Nimmo leading off who is willing to take pitches and walks; and followed by Lindor, the RBI opportunities will surely be there! You both have him with an OPS in the low-mid .900s(!), well above the projections. That would be nice. My #s are:

    525 PA .300 AVG 22 HR 86 RBI OPS .888

  • Wobbit

    The Mets lineup is a conundrum and a nice problem to have, with still too many unanswered roster questions. But here is the Mets lineup as I see it, assuming we get Springer:
    1-2 Lindor and Springer
    3-4-5 Conforto, Alonso, McNeil combo.
    6 Nimmo/ DH (Smith)
    7 JDDavis-Guillorme 3B
    8 McCann-Nido

    All this is subject to change as the season rolls out. Maybe McNeil gets hot, needs more ABs. Maybe Pete has a cool streak and needs to bat lower to relieve pressure. No Springer means more Nimmo, Though I enjoyed Rojas’s willingness to adjust lineup last season, I’m hoping for more stability this season to allow baseball players, who notoriously value their routines, to flourish. NL East will be a bloodbath.

    • Bob P

      Springer or not, Nimmo should be leading off.

  • Metsense

    I see McNeil batting second because he is the best hitter on the team ( my Tom Tango influence) and his 383 OBP will also set the table for the three following 30+ homerun hitters in the lineup.
    657 PA 319/383/501 20 HR 78 RBIs

  • footballhead

    Not trying to be a pessimist Wobbit, but I don’t think the Mets will…or should go after Springer for his current asking price. I personally hope they don’t get him at all, as this will blow the budget after 2021 when our own players go for arbitration raises.

    I basically agree with the lineup you envision though, but I’ll assume the Mets don’t get Springer.

    1. Nimmo (L)
    2. Lindor (S)
    3. McNeil (L)
    4. Alonso (R)
    5. Conforto (L)
    6. Davis (R)… Guillorme for defense
    7. Smith (L)…assuming DH is implemented in the NL
    8. McCann (R)
    9. a competent defender for CF….. don’t care how weak a hitter he is: Marisnick, Brantley?

    At this point in time, I think the Mets should rightly focus on another SP, and a lefty arm for the bullpen.

    • Woodrow

      Brantley isn’t a CFer,he’s a DH!

  • Wobbit

    Nimmo’s numbers against lefties may not warrant his leading off against tough LHers. I’d hate to give those great Braves’ LH pitchers the extra easy at bat. I’m good his leading off against RHs, but rather play the numbers against LH with a RH hitter at the top. All we sacrifice is one at bat from Nimmo, and the numbers show this is probably good. If Nimmo hits ninth, it’s almost as good.
    I sure wish Billy Hamilton learned how to hit. He looked so damn good at the plate, but the ball always went straight up who he made contact. You’d think is high school coach would have worked that out with him. I ‘d love his speed in the CF, chasing down balls in the gap and challenging Nimmo for the leadoff spot. Is there another Billy H out there? I thought Inciarte would have been a nice pickup.

  • TexasGusCC

    .348/.408/.542 batting average champ

  • TJ

    310/380/480. 18/80

  • Remember1969

    I have not read the article nor any comments yet, and wanted to get this in before I do.

    I am not as bullish on McNeil as many other Mets fans. While I agree he is a good hitter, I am concerned that playing him at second base is not the right solution. I feel like this would have been the year to ‘trade high’.

    He is a tough guy to predict .. I just can’t see a full time Lindor/McNeil keystone combo.

    420 Plate Appearances
    370 At-Bats
    108 Hits
    .292 BA
    .376 OBP
    12 HR
    25 Doubles
    1 Triple
    171 Total Bases
    .462 Slugging
    46 RBI
    51 Runs Scored
    .838 OPS

    It won’t be a terrible year at the plate, but his at bats will be limited by his glove.

    Last point – McNeil provides a classic case of the average/power tradeoff. He is capable of hitting more homers, but if he gets ‘homer happy’, his average will suffer.
    If he reduces his homers to 9, his average will be up to .310 or so; if he has 15+ homers, his average will drop to the .280 range.

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