5) Who is this year’s Jeff McNeil?
The impossible to predict and ongoing storyline every season can be referenced back to Jeff McNeil in 2018. As a minor leaguer, McNeil was someone no one really paid much attention to. Then he started hitting. A lot of hitting. The kind of hitting that made you think he could win a batting title one day. His .342 batting average in 88 minor league games that season came from out of nowhere. A bit forgotten from that stretch of 384 plate appearances were the 19 home runs he hammered, too. Thank playing in Las Vegas for a portion of it.
The prospect who turns into a major league contributor in one fell swoop isn’t such a rarity. Tylor Megill repeated some of the success McNeil had a few years later when in 2021 he pitched his way from minor league obscurity and into the rotation. He hasn’t had as much success as McNeil and yet it’s important to leave room to mention him.
Who’ll have a chance to be this year’s rising star?
Outfielder Rhylan Thomas quietly hit .328/.407/.425 last season from St. Lucie to Binghamton. A bit obscure as an 11th round draft pick, he might be less of a McNeil copycat and more of a legit prospect overlooked.
Falling more into the vortex of nothingness is pitcher Trey McLoughlin. A 16th round pick from 2021, McLoughlin is a reliever who pitched to a 2.79 ERA in 51.2 innings at Brooklyn and Binghamton. He turns 25 in June which isn’t quite as old as McNeil or Megill upon their promotions but 40 is the new 30, right? Tell that to my hips, feet, and left wrist.