Apr 8, 2019

Mets Infielder / Outfielder: Jeff McNeil (2018-2019)

Jeff McNeil was born on April 8th 1992 in Santa Barbara, California. The six foot one, left handed batter throws right handed.

In high school he played three seasons as basketball player, averaging 17 points a game. 

He was also more interested in gold but a disappointing performance in the 2009 Junior Amateur Championship had him focus more on baseball. He did not start playing baseball until his senior year.

After getting noticed by Cal State where he got a scholarship he moved over to Long Beach State in his junior year. There he was named to the All Bug West team getting drafted by the New York Mets in the 12th round of the 2013 draft.

He missed a lot of action due to injuries in 2016 & 2017 playing in only 51 games in those years. He began 2018 at AA Binghamton where hit .327 with 14 HRs & 43 RBIs in 57 games. 

He was moved  up to AAA Las Vegas where he hit .368 in 31 games with a .427 on base %. That was enough for the weak hitting Mets with a need for an infielder to call him up.

Trivia: In the minor leagues he began using  his now familiar, knobless bats given to him by former Mets hitting coach Lamar Johnson. Johnson served as Mets hitting coach in 2014 getting replaced by Kevin Long, then moving as a minor league hitting instructor.

Big Leagues: McNeil made his MLB debut on July 24th, 2018 appearing as a pinch hitter collecting a hit in his first at bat in a 6-3 Mets win over the San Diego Padres. 

Two days later he made his first start batting 7th & playing third base in a game at Pittsburgh, where the Mets beat the Pirates 12-6. McNeil got a base hit & drew a pair of walks. 

On July 31st he hit his first career HR, a solo shot off Tanner Roark, in Mets embarrassing 25-1 loss against the Washington Nats. He seemed to fit in quickly with big league pithing & began to heat up his hitting in August.

On August 4th he had his first four hit game, including a double in Zack Wheelers 3-0 win in Atlanta against the Braves. Two days later he hit his second career HR, coming off the Reds Keury Mella, in a Mets 6-4 win in Cincinnati. 

In late August he had another four hit game, that week he also hit triples in two games on August 18th & again on the 22nd. At the end of August he was batting .330, as a bright spot on a dark season with not much hitting. His tendency to put the ball in play & not strike out too often have been keys to his success, something many MLB players lack these days.

In September, he saw regular action driving in ten runs, he finished the season hitting safely in 12 of his last 16 games. In September he had nine multi hit games, including another four hit game on September 23rd against Washington in D.C. where he hit his third HR of the season. 

For 2018, in 63 games (225 at bats) McNeil batted .329 with a .381 on base %, hitting 11 doubles, with 6 triples (second on the team) 3 HRs & 19 RBIs, while stealing seven bases as well. 

McNeil opened a lot of eyes and there was already high future expectations for the youngster. He was tied for sixth in the Rookie Of The Year voting, not receiving more votes because of the short time he played. 

When the Mets acquired Robinson Cano & Jed Lowrie in the offseason, McNeil's fate became unclear. Manager Mickey Callaway stated he would play still play at short behind Amed Rosario as well as at third base behind Lowrie & Todd Frazier. But the Mets will mostly play McNeil in left field, a position he hasn't played since college.

2019: In Spring Training 2019 he showed that he did need more work in the outfield, although he did make some fine throws & did a decent job on routine plays.

At the plate he was awesome. In 18 Spring Training games he hit 4 HRs with 9 RBIs going 19-54 batting .352with six extra base hits.

He got the Opening Day start in the Mets 2-0 win over the Nats in D.C. He went 0-3 with a walk. He had a great second game, collecting four hits with a double, a triple & four RBIs in the Mets 11-8 win. 

He drove in another un on April 1st in Miami & hit straight in three games. On April 6th, he entered the game in the 8th inning, as a pinch hitter in a 5-5 tie game & was hit by a pitch. Through his first seven games on 2019 he was batting .368.

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