Soon, the spotlight moves to Mickey Callaway, whose job will be to bring the best out of the team Van Wagenen has assembled. Jeff McNeil is at the top of that list.
When Brodie Van Wagenen brought the versatile and productive Jed Lowrie on board, the question immediately arose – uh oh – what do the Mets now do with the player who was penciled in as their starting second baseman for 2019, Jeff Mc Neil?
Lowrie is advertised, and rightly so, as a put me anywhere you want, just don’t put me on the bench type of player. But the more significant portion of his games over the last two seasons when he was with the Oakland A’s has been as a second baseman.
Similarly, McNeil’s career, consisting of six seasons in the minors and one with the Mets, has followed the same course.
Jeff McNeil, however, is a hitting machine, who has averaged.300 or better in every season as a professional, including last season when he burst on the scene with the Mets batting .329 with a .381 on-base percentage. Yes, it was a small sample of only 225 at-bats, but it follows the trend of his career, and it doesn’t appear any sort of let-up will occur.
Mickey Callaway’s primary mission offensively must be to find a way for both Lowrie. McNeil, and I almost forgot, Robinson Cano, to be in his lineup on a regular basis. And let’s be clear, this is Callaway’s job. Van Wagen has done his job by bringing in the talent, and it shouldn’t matter if every player is a first baseman, relief pitcher, or outfielder.
The one thing that can’t happen in the mix is for Jeff McNeil to get lost in the shuffle. McNeil reminds so much of Daniel Murphy, another hitting machine the Mets let scurry away under the trumped-up veil – he can’t field.
But as we know, some players develop later rather than sooner, and it wasn’t until 2015 at the ripe old age of 31 that Murphy contributed a monster season with the Mets antagonists, Washington Nationals.
The current Mets plan is to use Jeff McNeil as an outfielder. All well and good except Van Wagenen gave a rather lukewarm endorsement of McNeil on the day Lowrie was signed, telling newjersey.com. “The outfield is not our top priority,” Van Wagenen said after the Mets introduced infielder Jed Lowrie at Citi Field. “With McNeil going to the outfield, he gives us another really good weapon to be in the lineup on a potentially everyday basis.”
It is an awkward position for Callaway to be in, but one of the first things he should be doing is clearing the way with Van Wagenen for McNeil to report with the pitchers and catchers when they arrive for Spring Training.
Plus, make sure one or two coaches are on hand early to guide McNeil through the paces in the outfield. Anything less is just setting him up to fail, and what do the Mets gain from that?
Regarding seniority only, Jeff McNeil is the odd man out, but in every other way, McNeil is the future, and the Mets should be doing everything they can to ensure his success, and ultimately the success of the team.
An announcement from Brodie Van Wagenen yesterday confirms that the move of McNeil is a definite. It’s up to Callaway, though, to make sure it happens smoothly.