Jeff McNeil has been possibly the biggest welcomed surprise for the 2018 New York Mets since was called up in late July, he has a .335/.389/.494 slash line with three home runs and 17 RBI to give him a superb .883 OPS, 144 wRC+, and a 2.1 WAR. His .335 average in his first 50 MLB games is the highest in Mets history.
McNeil spoke with Kevin Kernan of the New York Post to talk about his success while also mentioning some major components of it, with his unwillingness to strike out playing a major role in it (17 strikeouts in 187 plate appearances).
“I hate to strike out. I’ve been that way my whole life. I was the same way in Little League where I struck out like once a year.’’
The 26-year-old hated even the one time he would strike out too.
“I was mad. It was always the umpire’s fault too. They were always called strikes. It’s like playing Wiffle ball with my brothers, put the ball in play.
Another facet of McNeil’s approach is his willingness to take advantage of what the defense gives him, specifically referencing shifts.
“If they shift on me I try to hit it to the left side of the infield. I kind of enjoy that because I can just hit the ball to left field for a single.’’
Personally, I love that approach by McNeil as nothing sickens me more watching games at this point when I see half the infield wide open and nobody being able to take advantage of it.
However, Pat Roessler admitted that this approach needs some fine tuning because McNeil still has a tendency to put some bad pitches in play, which obviously doesn’t always work to his advantage.
“We want to make sure that balls he swings at early are balls that he can do something with, he’s got such great bat-to-ball skills that he almost has to be careful that he doesn’t put marginal pitches in play. He’s as competitive as hell. Nothing intimidates him. He thinks he can get a hit off anybody. He’s done a great job.’’
McNeil’s defense is also not his strong suit by any means as he has -3 DRS at second base this season, but he has made some strides there this year as Kernan points out, the team is working to quicken up the pace he uses when turning double plays.
That being said, Gary DiSarcina is very impressed with the way McNeil has played and even compared him to one of the better hitters of this generation.
“He really works hard. As a hitter, he’s unconventional, he’s a little bit like Ichiro [Suzuki] sometimes, his swing and his feet are moving and he is running out of the box, he’ll slap balls. With two strikes he’s almost like a slasher. He puts the ball in play. Nowadays, with launch angle and everybody swinging for the fences and having that one grooved swing, he stands out. He’s different. When teams shift him we kind of laugh.’’
McNeil is by no means a finished product, but the product that is out there right now is already pretty good.