Could Jeff McNeil win another batting title? We all figured he'd be in contention to do so again in 2023. Ever since he was called up by the New York Mets in 2018, McNeil has been the type of hitter you expect to bat .300. The results have proven this to be the case with two exceptions.
McNeil has struggled in the past with his 2021 campaign standing out most. The year happened to be strikingly similar to 2021 without the trade deadline eject button in place. He seemed headed there again this year, eventually saving it from being a complete waste of a season.
We witnessed the lighter side of what McNeil has to offer. Maybe not quite as filling, he packed a ton of flavor into his game along the way.
Jeff McNeil continues to have value for the NY Mets roster even when he isn't at his best
McNeil may have had second base locked up with no serious competition. That's what happens when you sign an extension earlier in the year. You get to write your name in cement wherever you play.
Those old thoughts of the Mets trading McNeil before reaching free agency died down before the ink dried on the deal. He proved with his 2022 batting title how key he is to the lineup. What about 2023?
McNeil wasn’t quite the same guy. Slashing .270/.333/.378 was okay but not even up to the career .298/.361/.438 hitter he has been in his career.
The Mets never seemed to have a clear understanding of where McNeil should hit in the order. It's hard to blame them for this. He's an atypical hitter on a team with plenty of lineup holes. You want to get the most from his bat-on-ball approach. When you're lacking in the power department, a guy like McNeil can slot on third or fourth around your one true slugger.
McNeil ended up with more games in the number three spot than anywhere else. He thrived there, hitting .304/.348/.414. It’s not a bad place to put a hitter like him. It seemed to get the most from him.
Not everyone would have handled the changes on the daily as well as him. He circumnavigated the field defensively more than ever, starting a pair of games in center field and recording an inning at first base and mid-game once each. He finished with an even 0 WAR on defense for the year which isn’t so bad when we factor in everywhere he played and average or above he is.
This wasn’t an All-Star campaign for the scrappiest everyday player on the Mets roster. Nonetheless, he packed an enjoyable punch in the end.