One of the most underrated moves of the offseason for Brodie Van Wagenen and the New York Mets was arguably the one they didn’t make, by pulling second baseman Jeff McNeil out of the trade package with the Seattle Mariners for Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano.
While there was not much to cheer about in a forgettable 2018 season for the Mets, the 26-year old infielder’s strong rookie campaign was one of the lone bright spots.
McNeil began the 2018 season tearing the cover off the ball in the minors. In 88 games between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Las Vegas, he slashed .342/.411/.617 and showed an advanced approach at the plate. McNeil made his big league debut on July 24, and his success carried over to the big leagues.
Over 248 big league plate appearances in his rookie season, McNeil posted a .329/.371/.481 stat line, while only striking out 24 times. And in 53 starts, he impressively recorded 20 multi hit games, 3-four hit games, and 5-three hits games.
In a season full of injuries and mainly negatives, McNeil’s “crazy contact skills” provided the Mets “anemic” offense with a much needed kick start. From the time of his debut to the end of the season, the team finished with a 37-28 record.
His presence particularly helped enhance struggling shortstop Amed Rosario‘s offensive numbers. With McNeil batting behind him in the two-hole, Rosario successfully slashed .301/.331/.431 over his final 30 games.
After the addition of Cano as the new second baseman, the Mets have a few different options to try and fit McNeil’s bat into the 2019 starting lineup.
First, the Mets could simply name McNeil their starting third baseman over Todd Frazier. Frazier is coming off a rough 2018 season where he struggled not only at the plate, but also staying on the field. Although, barring a trade Mickey Callaway has indicated at the moment Frazier is the Opening Day starter at the hot corner.
If that is the case, the Mets will likely look to use McNeil in a super utility role. McNeil figures to see time at almost every infield position, and Callaway has even hinted at some appearances in the outfield. Throughout his minors and brief big league career, McNeil spent most of his time at second and third.
Regardless of how the Mets plan on using McNeil, they certainly need to find a way to fit his bat in the lineup everyday in some way, shape, or form. With this win-now approach the Mets are taking into next season, the Mets need to find a way to utilize the scrappy and hard-nosed approach McNeil brings to the table.