Here are some fun numbers. .329. .318. .311. Those were the batting averages Jeff McNeil had in each of his first three seasons in the big leagues dating back to 2018. Even if this included just a single season over 300 plate appearances, all of the signs were there. The New York Mets could count on McNeil to put the ball in play and get hits.
McNeil wasn’t always the most predictable player. Although his OBP ranged from only .381 to .384, his home runs surged greatly in 2019 (whose didn’t?) with 23 of his lifetime 37 now coming in that single season. His defensive game is impossible to judge from those first three years because he was constantly moving around.
Whatever you thought of McNeil, you probably liked him. After this most recent year, you might not be so trustworthy. I, on the other hand, have faith in the Flying Squirrel.
Jeff McNeil had a bad year for the Mets in 2021 but I think the story will be different in 2022
If the Mets hold onto McNeil through this winter and into Opening Day, I am confident enough to think he’ll do much better than he did in 2021. His .249/.317/.358 batting line was atrociously worse than his career total that now sits at .298/.364/.459.
Whatever it was holding back the Mets bats in 2021, McNeil wasn’t spared.
There’s nothing to go off to believe in McNeil other than his past performance, lack of reason for why he was so miserable this past year, and pure faith—the one thing we can believe in without any reason whatsoever.
Oddly enough, this was the first year since his 2018 midseason promotion where McNeil had a position locked. Robinson Cano’s suspension allowed him to start at second base every day. However, the arrival of Javier Baez and a more fully healthy Mets team down the stretch pushed McNeil into playing a lot more left field in the final weeks.
It was a temporary solution to a more permanent problem plaguing the Mets. Left field was one of the club’s most unproductive positions last year. Dominic Smith struggled more than McNeil and everybody else they tried at the position was below average.
The exact role McNeil plays for the team in 2022 is yet to be determined. That’s a discussion for another day.
Want your voice heard? Join the Rising Apple team!
For now, McNeil is one of those guys who seemed to fall out of the circle of trust. And prior to 2021, he was knee-deep into the sands of it. There was nothing to genuinely dislike about his game. Let’s hope the old McNeil is back, better than ever, and doing his best homage to Tony Gwynn.