It’s time to look at the recipient of the new $50 million extensions, Jeff McNeil. This time last year, McNeil was coming off the worst season of his career and the computer models put a bunch of weight on that bad performance. The most-optimistic prediction from the six models was the .779 OPS forecast from Steamer. McNeil went out and put up an .836 OPS, the same exact figure he posted in 2020. Now that 2021 is a year further in the past, how do the models view his outlook for this upcoming season?

ATC – 584 PA, .288/.347/.410, 10 HR
Marcel – 537 PA, .289/.350/.416, 10 HR
RotoCh – 522 PA, .304/.366/.438, 10 HR
Steamer – 590 PA, .290/.348/.423, 12 HR
THE BAT – 629 PA, .281/.343/.398, 10 HR
ZiPS – 538 PA, .289/.353/.419, 10 HR

Wow, I did not see this coming. At least Roto Champ sees him producing an OPS in the .800s, even if it’s just an .804 mark. Essentially, all of the systems are still being spooked by McNeil’s 2021 season. But it seems odd to me that a guy who has had at least an .836 OPS in four of the five seasons he’s been in the majors – or three of four if you want to combine his debut and 2020 into one year – is expected to post an OPS in the .760-.770 range. Or, if you’re really pessimistic, THE BAT forecasts a .741 mark.

McNeil’s relatively old age for his experience level, combined with his ultra-high BABIPs, are no doubt working against him with the computer models. Once again, the computer models seem to have a consensus around what McNeil will do in AVG and OBP and especially HR. It’s a bit strange how there’s some variability in his SLG – there’s a 40-point difference between the high and low forecasts – yet five of the six models expect him to hit 10 HR and the sixth has him down for 12.

To me, the big challenge in coming up with a subjective forecast for McNeil is how he’ll handle hitting under the new rules which ban extreme shifts. Many, many times, we saw him go to the plate last year, looking to see where the hole in the infield was and then do his best Wee Willie Keeler imitation and hit them where they weren’t.

Perhaps it’s nothing more than wishful thinking on my part but my hope is that McNeil approaches the new defensive reality with an emphasis on where the outfielders are playing, rather than focusing on the infielders. My opinion is that we see the best version of McNeil if he focuses on driving the ball into the biggest space in the outfield, whether that be in the gaps or down one of the lines.

When hitting the ball when no shift was in play last year, FanGraphs has McNeil with a .351 AVG and a .468 SLG in 171 ABs. The million-dollar question is: Can we see growth from that .117 ISO McNeil had when no shift was deployed against him last year? McNeil’s average hard-hit percentage is one of the lowest in the game, checking in at 24.7% last year. But how much of that is a relative lack of strength versus a choice by McNeil to slap the ball to a vacant spot in the infield?

In the last two months of the 2019 season, we saw power from McNeil that we hadn’t seen before or since. In his final 176 PA of ’19, 23 of McNeil’s 44 hits went for extra-bases, including 12 HR. He had a .305 ISO in that stretch. Because he showed that type of power previously, my opinion is that it’s there if he’s just willing to tap into it once again. Here’s hoping he channels his inner Daniel Murphy and looks to stop being content flicking the ball the other way and instead looks to drive the ball for power. My totally biased forecast for McNeil:

600 PA, .318/.384/.531, 25 HR

8 comments on “Mets 2023 projections: Jeff McNeil

  • Footballhead

    You know Brian, I have to agree with you re: the pessimistic numbers all the computer models have on McNeil. I just looked at Baseball Reference to see what his 162 game averages are, and even with his dud 2021, they are much better then what the forecasters have.
    I don’t think he’ll go full “Daniel Murphy” on us, so I don’t see your predicted 25 homers….but overall, I’m quite “bullish” on the Squirrel.

    625 PA, .312 BA, 375 .OBP, .465 SLG, ( so is this then an OPS of 840?)+ 14 HR

  • JimO

    McNeil is great. He should be hitting 2nd in the order. 2023 will look like:

    585 PA – .303 BA – .365 OBP – .430 SLG – 11 HRs

    • Foxdenizen

      I agree Jim, he batted toward the bottom of the order far too often last season.
      540 PA .322 BA, .380 OBP, .480 SLG, 15 HR

  • Brian Joura

    There’s an article on FG today about McNeil that includes four videos of him hitting the ball where the outfielders weren’t, all resulting in extra-base hits.

    Jeff McNeil Hit His Way to a Four-Year Extension

    Stop being content with singles, JM!

  • Steve_S.

    Yup, throw out 2021, and McNeil has been very consistent.

    575 PA, .320/.380/.480, 15 HR

  • T.J.

    JMac goes 305/365/475 18 HR.

    he bats in this lineup will be very very interesting indeed.

  • NYM6986

    I agree that throwing out 2021 as an outlier makes sense. McNeil continues to hit his stride and that he had the ability to go the other way points to his great bat control. Hit ‘em where they ain’t is always a good solution. Remove that infielder sitting in shallow right field and he will pull more for hits. I look for more HRs and an increased BA. Hard to see him hit 6th with his ability to get on base, but that’s where Buck earns his pay.

    540 PA, .325/.395/.540, 23HR

  • Metsense

    What a difference a year makes! Five people, in the projections last year, had him not to break a 300 batting average. Now everybody loves him. I would be for him batting third and Lindor 5th because of McNeil’s better OPS and doubles that would give Alonso and Lindor more opportunities to drive in runs.

    601 PA 309/370/470 15 HR

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