Nicknamed, “The Flying Squirrel,” Jeff McNeil has been a fan favorite since he first stepped onto the field. McNeil is coming off a stellar 2022 campaign for the New York Mets. Expectations for 2023 aren’t as to whether he will be able to outdo his results of the previous year, but rather can he match or even come close to repeating one of the best seasons ever by a Mets second baseman.
McNeil is coming off a 2022 season that saw him win the National League batting title and the Silver Slugger Award for National League second basemen, make his second All Star game appearance, and lead his team into the post season. While McNeil was only the second Met to lead the league in batting, he was the first one to lead the MLB in batting as well.
For your encore, all you have to do in 2023 is do it all over again!
Setting expectations for Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil, first by looking at his numbers
Before we examine Jeff McNeil's future, let’s first take a look at his history. McNeil attended California State University on a baseball scholarship, He was a 12th round pick of the New York Mets in the MLB 2013 Amateur Draft. After several stops in minor leagues, McNeil was promoted to the Mets on July 28, 2018. His .329 batting average that year earned him sixth place in the Rookie of the Year balloting.
Now the Mets’ starting second baseman, 2019 saw McNeil hit 23 HRs, 75 RBIs, with a .318 batting average. This production earned him his first All Star game appearance for the National League.
The 2020 MLB season will forever be known as the year of Covid-19. While playing in only 52 games, Jeff McNeil was still able to bat .311 in what only be described as under difficult conditions with games played in front of empty stadiums.
McNeil’s career path took a downward turn in 2021. He got off to a slow start and began to press, which only made things worse. He had a famous dugout altercation with teammate Francisco Lindor. On July 30 the Mets traded for shortstop Javier Baez, a close friend of Lindor who said that he would move to second base to play next to Lindor. McNeil started seeing time at corner outfield positions. He finished the year with a .251 batting average and some doubts about his future with the club.
As mentioned above, 2022 was more than a bounce back year for Jeff McNeil. It was the year when the accomplishments and achievements of a career dedicated to excellence finally came to fruition.
OK, now what have you done for me lately?
Jeff McNeil, to infinity and beyond
If you look at Jeff McNeil’s career statistics and average them out over a theoretical 500 AB season, it’s easy to estimate McNeil's production in 2023 to be about 10 HRs, 60 RBI’s, .310 BA, .350 OBP as he continues hitting balls in the gap with 30 more extra base hits. That is of course, unless he doesn’t.
As we have noted, down years can happen for no reason. Injuries are always possible, particularly the nagging kind that slow you down but you try to play through. However, there’s no reason to doubt that Jeff McNeil can produce these numbers in 2023, even if you want to lower them by about 10% since there won't be any of the radical infield shifts this year and his superior bat control might not find as many holes. He may not be batting champion again, but then again, he just might. Don’t count him out
Born on April 8, 1992, Jeff McNeil will be entering his age 31 baseball season shortly after opening day. He is arbitration-eligible for two more years and can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2024 season. It is estimated that his salary will be around $6.5 million this year and $13 million next. Since these are not large numbers for today's game, perhaps this might be a good to consider a him for a contract extension?