Jeff McNeil slighted in MLB Network fan poll
New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil was recently ranked third on MLB Network’s Top 10 Right Now second base fan poll. That’s a good spot for McNeil to be in, but having Ozzie Albies ranked ahead of him irked me. Not because he’s a Brave, but because McNeil is a better baseball player - as are several others on this list.
Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil gets no respect in this poll
I don’t know why the fans who participate in these polls continue to rank Ozzie Albies over better players like Jeff McNeil, Andres Gimenez, Marcus Semien, Luis Arraez, and Nico Hoerner
Let’s start on the offensive side of the ball. McNeil has a career slashline of .307/.370/.458/.827 with an OPS+ of 128. He was even better in 2022, posting a .326/.382/.454/.836 line with an OPS+ of 140. He won the silver slugger for second basemen and received an MVP vote. Albies’ career slashline .271/.322/.470/.792 and OPS+ of 106 is only a smidge above league average. He dealt with injuries in 2022, but when he was healthy, he did not produce, posting a .247/.294/.409/.703 with an OPS+ of 95.
Albies does possess more power than McNeil. He has 98 homers in his career, compared to McNeil’s 48. He also has more doubles (153 to 121). But it comes at the cost of a much higher strikeout rate. Albies strikes out 17.3% of his plate appearances, McNeil only strikes out in 11.9%. Neither of these guys walk very much, both posting walk rates less than 7%. They should both be working on that.
Defensively, both of these guys are studs. In 2022, McNeil ranked in the 95th percentile in Outs Above Average (OAA), tallying eight at second base. Albies was in the 85th percentile with four OAA in the half of the season he played, so he was on a similar pace to McNeil.
The difference between the two is that McNeil is also capable of playing other positions. McNeil is an above-average defender in both corner outfield spots, and he can play third base in an emergency situation. Albies has never appeared anywhere other than second base, likely due to his very weak throwing arm, which is in the 6th percentile.
Albies is a better baserunner, tallying 24.2 BsR in his career compared to McNeil’s one. Neither of these guys are particularly fast (Albies is in the 54th percentile in sprint speed, McNeil is in the 51st), but Albies is more aggressive and steals more bases (63 to 19).
Even with the advantage in power and speed/baserunning, Albies still performs worse in the metrics that are used to determine value in today's game. Whether you prefer WAR, OPS+, or wRC+, McNeil is consistently ahead of Albies.
MLB Network’s Shredder list didn’t even have Albies in the top 10, so we’ve seen both extremes in evaluating Albies. In reality, I think he’s somewhere in the back half of the top 10. Here’s how I would rank the top 10 second basemen in baseball (I took into account that Jazz Chisholm is moving to center, and Hoerner and Arraez are returning to second base):
- Jose Altuve
- Jeff McNeil
- Marcus Semien
- Andres Gimenez
- Luis Arraez
- Nico Hoerner
- Ozzie Albies
- Jorge Polanco
- Ketel Marte
- Gleyber Torres