Jeff McNeil had a bit of an uneven season last year but ended on an incredible tear, which boosted his numbers to give him a good looking season overall. He finished the year with a .311/.383/.454 line and a 130 wRC+. It’s worth noting that McNeil battled a knee injury in August after crashing into the outfield wall while making a catch, but once he was back to full strength, he hit .356/.431/.567 with a .998 OPS in September and October.
That September performance is what Mets fans have come to expect from the Flying Squirrel. Ever since he entered the majors, his hitting ability has been elite to the point where it seemed that batting .400 was not out of the realm of possibility for him in a shortened season. That clearly didn’t happen, but his hit tool should still be an asset to the Mets in 2021.
McNeil mostly played the outfield last season after he surprisingly lost the third base job to JD Davis. He did not look comfortable at the hot corner and in a small sample in spring training this year, he struggled again. His natural position, however, is second base, and with Robinson Cano’s suspension, McNeil looks to be the team’s everyday second baseman. McNeil also offers the Mets some flexibility in the outfield, but with the Mets needing to get Dominic Smith’s dangerous bat into the lineup, McNeil figures to see very little playing time in the outfield.
While manager Luis Rojas should have no issues penciling in McNeil at second base every day, where he should bat in the lineup is a bit of a tougher decision. Brandon Nimmo and his elite ability to get on base seems to have the leadoff position locked down, and the addition of Francisco Lindor, who the Mets intend to bat second, pushes McNeil further down the lineup. This is not a bad problem to have, but Rojas will have some decisions to make when filling out the lineup card.
Overall the projections are predicting another productive year for McNeil. ZiPS has the second baseman hitting .297/.362/.464 in 2021, and similarly Steamer is projecting him to hit .289/.355/.456 for the year.
With all of the offensive firepower in the Mets’ lineup, it is easy to overlook McNeil, but his bat and his versatility make him a key part of a team looking to turn around their misfortunes from 2020.