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.