At least that’s what assistant general manager John Ricco insinuated on Friday, but it still doesn’t sound like the Mets are too eager to rush the 26-year-old, who has totaled 18 home runs between Triple-A Las Vegas and Double-A Binghamton in 2018.
“He’s getting our attention,” Ricco told reporters in his first pre-homestand press conference since general manager Sandy Alderson took a leave of absence. “We have a pretty good second baseman, and that’s pretty much [McNeil’s] primary position, but I would say we’d like to see him at some point take the next step [to the majors].”
At this point, it’s hard to see what McNeil has left to prove by toiling in the Pacific Coast League. Since his promotion on June 16, he has recorded 12 extra-base hits and driven in 20 runs, while his .460 on-base percentage entering Friday lead the circuit (min. 80 plate appearances).
With a major league team that increasingly looks like it will fall closer to the ‘sellers’ end of the spectrum than the ‘buyers’ side come July 31, there isn’t any downside to promoting McNeil, who, at his age, likely is what he is. His skills aren’t going to drastically change from the level they’re at now, and the Mets might as well see how the impressive minor league numbers will translate to the next level.
Meanwhile, his teammate, Peter Alonso, hasn’t seen similar results since joining Las Vegas, but his former detractors are already regretting their early reports.
“He is one of my biggest whiffs ever,” an anonymous scouting director told Baseball America. “I had him as an [organizational] guy. It’s pretty hard to argue with what he does, and the offense looks like it’s real in pretty much every way.”
While fans have been clamoring for the promotion of the hulking first baseman since he hit the ground running with Binghamton in April, the Mets are likely to be more conservative with him compared to McNeil. It simply isn’t worth it to burn the service time and 40-man roster spot well before it’s needed in a lost year. McNeil is eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft, while Alonso wouldn’t be in that conversation until the following offseason.
And that’s without addressing the contact and defensive concerns that surround Alonso. He had struck out in nearly 35% of his Triple-A at-bats entering Friday, and scouting reports on his glove are kinder but simultaneously unimpressive.
The Mets aren’t competing this season. Let the kids play.