Jeff McNeil is in the business of tormenting major league pitchers wherever he goes. He looks like nothing on the field. Oh my, he can play though…
Jeff McNeil reminds me of the kids I used to face in high school as a 6′ 1″ pitcher. I’d see them walking to the plate carrying a big bat with their undersized frame, and I’d say to myself, “He’s mine!”. In the flash of a minute, though, I’d turn around and there he was standing on second base, having blasted a double down the line…
Unless you are a Mets fan, you probably need an introduction to Jeff McNeil. Trailing only Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich, McNeil is currently batting .341 with only 28 strikeouts in 250 plate appearances. His on-base percentage show he reaches base two of every five at-bats (third highest in the league), together with a lofty .898 OPS in 2019 (the league OPS average is .751).
Listed by Baseball Reference as 6’1″, 195 lbs, McNeil doesn’t appear to be that “big”. His muscles don’t bulge as they do, for instance, on Yankees outfielder, Brett Gardner, a player of similar build.
Jeff McNeil: A Player’s Player
Yet Jeff McNeil is a hitting machine this year, as well as the season before when he finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year balloting.
Presently, you’ll find Jeff McNeil as one of the three finalists at second base in the voting for the 2019 All-Star Game, set to be played in Cleveland. Voting in the Starters Election begins Wednesday, June 26th at 12 PM ET and ends on Thursday, June 27th at 4 PM ET.
Aptly known by his Mets teammates as “Squirrel”, Jeff McNeil shines not only offensively but defensively as well. Last weekend, for instance, he made a game-saving throw off Kolten Wong‘s bloop hit to shallow right to nail pitcher Jack Flaherty, a pinch-runner, at home plate, ending the game and preserving the Mets’ 8-7 win over the Cardinals.
It’s that type of thinking, which McNeil does every day on the field, that makes him a pro’s pro. McNeil’s control of the strike zone makes him a particular favorite of Mets Manager Mickey Callaway, who said of McNeil:
The trouble, of course, is they don’t grow these types of players on trees. They come along ever so rarely in baseball these days. For every Robinson Cano or Yoenis Cespedes who steps on a field as your teammate, McNeil represents only a handful of players who play with a winning attitude – all day – every day.
With McNeil and Alonso, The Mets Have A Nucleus
Regretfully for McNeil, however, he is saddled on an underachieving Mets team that (so far) is losing more games than they win. Along with budding superstar Pete Alonso (25 home runs, 59 RBI, and 2.3 WAR), Jeff McNeil forms the nucleus of a Mets team that can do better in the near future. (See Video Below)
Locked up for the next five seasons by the Mets, it becomes incumbent on Mickey Callaway, the team’s GM, to build around them, whether through trades or free-agent acquisitions.
Even now though, Jeff McNeil alone is worth the price of admission to a Mets game. And you can only say that about a handful of players in the game today…
Update (6/22 4:52 P.M.): Jeff McNeil is at it again in Chicago today with a double and a single driving in three in a what appears to be a rout of the Cubs.