There’s no question where Jeff McNeil will play in 2021. The Robinson Cano suspension made him the starting second baseman for the New York Mets.
We’ll probably see McNeil suit up at other spots at some point this year and his job at second base might not be so permanent depending on what the Mets need. However, this is the year when we wave goodbye to the old McNeil and say hello to the new version.
Mets bungled up Jeff McNeil’s future with the Robinson Cano trade
Against some odds, McNeil came out of the 2019 season unscathed from the uncertain position he was put in. The Mets decided to go in a different direction at second base when they made the infamous deal with the Seattle Mariners to acquire Cano. Apparently not believing in McNeil’s 2018 surge through the minor leagues and with the team late in 2018, new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen preferred his old pal Cano at second base instead.
This left the Mets in a bit of a conundrum. What could they possibly do with McNeil? You don’t just bench a .300 hitter. So, in 2019, he began the year as the team’s Opening Day third baseman.
He wouldn’t play there much, though. McNeil made more starts in left field than anywhere else and also saw action in right field as well as second base. Wherever and whenever he was needed, McNeil rose to the challenge.
McNeil would again open the season in 2020 at third base but eventually move to left field as his main position. Some suspect defense by him at the hot corner and J.D. Davis in left field prompted the two to swap.
A man without a true position during the last two seasons, McNeil is finally back at home where he belongs: second base.
In parts of three big league seasons, McNeil has logged 774 innings at second base, 586 in left field, 330 in right field, and 245.1 as a third baseman. The variety of positions hasn’t stopped him from hitting. He has finished each season above .300. In his lone full season thus far, McNeil also managed to find his power stroke when he knocked 23 home runs in 2019. Couple it with his 38 doubles and McNeil has the potential to be a legitimate power hitter.
What McNeil might not do much ever again is show off his versatility. It’s a nice weapon to have but not so necessary anymore.
Cano, if he does indeed play out the rest of his contract with the Mets and isn’t released by the team after serving his suspension, could put the team in a bit of a predicament. What do the Mets do with him in 2022 and 2023 if McNeil is at second base?
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At least for now, we can say farewell to McNeil bouncing around the field much to the chagrin of fantasy baseball owners who love him because he qualifies for so many positions. The Flying Squirrel shouldn’t get rid of his extra mitts too soon, though. They could come in handy one day.