For the second time in three years, Jeff McNeil turned in a disappointing season in 2023. He posted a .108 ISO last year, compared to a .109 mark in 2001. And McNeil’s BABIP was .288 a season ago, compared to .280 in ’21. Lifetime, McNeil has a .140 ISO and a .321 BABIP, numbers that would be noticeably higher if we eliminated ’21 and ’23.

Unlike in ’21, McNeil turned things around the final two months of ’23, giving some hope for better things in 2024. In his final 55 games last year, a span covering 236 PA, McNeil posted a .305/.345/.468 line. He started to hit more of his pulled balls to the outfield and beyond, instead of rolling it over to the first or second baseman. That .813 OPS was encouraging to see unfold. But that’s not something that the computer models will take into account. Here are those forecasts:

ATC – 564 PA, .280/.341/.396, 9 HR
Marcel – 583 PA, .282/.345/.406, 11 HR
Steamer – 632, .288/.348/.418, 12 HR
THE BAT – 564 PA, .279/.341/.394, 9 HR
ZiPS – 540 PA, .277/.340/.389, 8 HR

These are some pessimistic predictions for a guy with a lifetime .799 OPS. But while they’re pessimistic, they’re very understandable. We’ve seen too much down production over the previous three years to ignore. And then combine that with the fact this will be McNeil’s age-32 season and these forecasts make sense.

Steamer is the most optimistic of the bunch projecting the highest in all five categories. Without knowing exactly what goes into their model, it’s impossible to say why that is. Perhaps it’s a little more weight on what happened in 2022 but that wouldn’t explain the HR part of the forecast, as McNeil hit just 9 HR that season.

Ultimately, knowing the specifics of one model isn’t all that important when all five are in basic agreement. They don’t see McNeil hitting .300 and they don’t see him slugging .450 – despite the fact he’s done both of those things in four of his six seasons in the majors. Of course, one of those seasons was his debut, a season with 248 PA. And another was the Covid year, with just 209 trips to the plate.

So, are there any reasons to believe in a better year than what the projections indicate? It appears that McNeil will play more this year at 2B, rather than bouncing around all over the field. The only problem is that his best numbers came last year when he played RF, where in 141 PA he posted an .849 OPS. In 390 PA at 2B, McNeil posted a .688 OPS.

So, it looks like the best hope is that he will continue to pull the ball into the air, like he did the end of ’23. But we’ve seen previously that McNeil abandoned that approach. His 2019 season, the one where he turned on the ball and hit 23 HR, stands out as what’s possible with this mindset. But, he hasn’t done it for a full season since.

People will try to claim that McNeil was unsuccessful whenever he tried to hit too many homers. But the simple fact is that there’s zero objective evidence to support that statement. There are things that sound good in theory and there are things that are supported by facts. The “too many homers” idea is the former.

Maybe it took McNeil a little while last year to adjust to the banning of extreme shifts. That seems unlikely to me but let’s not dismiss it completely. If this is true, does that mean he’s more likely to continue the pattern of late last year, where he pulls the ball in the air? That would be nice.

Much like Pete Alonso will never be able to eliminate swinging at pitches low and away, McNeil will never be able to eliminate grounders to the right side of the infield. But the key will be what proportion of his pulled balls are in the air. If he’s hitting 80% of his pulled balls on the ground, that simply won’t be a good thing.

In the past, my predictions with McNeil have been overly optimistic, thinking this will be the season he turns into late-career Daniel Murphy and pulls the ball with authority all year. That’s still my hope; it just won’t be my forecast. But the computer models still seem too bearish for me. Here’s my totally biased projection for McNeil this year:

572 PA, .291/.337/.438, 14 HR

9 comments on “Mets 2024 projections: Jeff McNeil

  • TexasGusCC


  • Steve_S.

    Improvement seen in August and September, so:

    622 PA, .303/.335/.440, 17 HR

  • Jimmy P

    Traded in July.

    • TexasGusCC

      I actually think that may true . Wow, cruel wake-up call.

    • Mike W

      I agree with Jimmy P. With Acuna and Williams on the way, he could be the odd man out.

      I too would like to see a lot more balls pulled in the air, but a player with a .270 average, who may hit ten home runs, with no real speed, isn’t a great value.

      • Metstabolism

        I really don’t think Acuna or Williams will be far enough along by mid-season to make McNeil expendable at that point. Players don’t generally jump from AA to the majors (much less single-A) and win permanent roster spots, let alone starting job that quickly. That only happens for generational and superstar talents.
        Also: McNeil’s contract isn’t that burdensome, and runs through ’26, with a club option for ’27. While I am a big advocate of trading a player a year early instead of a year late, I don’t think we’re quite to that point just yet. Next off-season, maybe. ’25 trade deadline – much more plausible. I realize that any regression on McNeil’s part this year will be seen as a somewhat definitive indicator that he is on his end-of-career downslide. But if that happens, he doesn’t have much trade value.

    • Brian Joura

      It seems to me for that to happen that McNeil would have to be doing good while the Mets were out of the Wild Card chase. That certainly could happen. But I’d have to put the chances of that as not being particularly high. Maybe 25% or so?

  • Metsense

    McNeil is a good player, He has a career average 121 OPS+. He will rebound slightly but will not achieve his career OPS+. If the Mets are sellers this summer than there is strong possibility that he will be traded.

    578 PA, 279/342/392 9 HR

  • José Hunter

    Lifetime stats for McNeil and Lindor, the latter in pretty much twice¹ the at bats as the former:
    WAR / dWAR / OPS+

    Lindor: 42.7 / 12.1 / 117
    McNeil: 19.2 / 2.7 / 121

    1. Subtract 12 ABs from McNeil and he’d have exactly half as many as Lindor

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