Once Jeff McNeil joined the Mets on July 24th, he did nothing but produce. Hitting .329/.381/.471, McNeil looked like the Mets had found their second baseman of the future. The Baseball Writers of America agreed, placing McNeil sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. However, new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen had a different vision, trading for Robinson Cano and signing Jed Lowrie, dumping McNeil to third on the depth chart for the keystone. Plus, with third baseman Todd Frazier still on the roster and first baseman Pete Alonso knocking at the door from the minors, McNeil’s 2019 playing time appeared in question.
But McNeil was never far from the Mets’ plans, remaining with the team despite trade interest, and talked up as an everyday player in the outfield. If the corner outfield becomes a comfortable place for McNeil, he has the opportunity to become a true super-utility player, much like the former future Met Ben Zobrist, with the ability to fill in at all four infield spots and hold his own in the outfield.
Due to injuries to Frazier and Lowrie, McNeil has played a fair amount of third base as well as left field this spring, and has looked good at both positions. McNeil, with his knob-less bat, provide the team with an elite hit tool and the type of versatility that Van Wagenen has espoused since coming on board. As has already been witnessed this spring, McNeil helps protect against injury for a number of players, in addition to affording the team the luxury of resting some of its older infielders.
If and when Yoenis Cespedes rejoins the team in the second half, McNeil’s playing time may, again, be an issue. However, if he keeps hitting as he has throughout his career, the Mets will find a spot in their lineup for McNeil.