Jeff McNeil‘s 2021 season for the New York Mets featured plenty more frustration than success as it was his first rough season in the big leagues. From helmet slams to Francisco Lindor wrapping his hands around McNeil’s throat, it was indeed a year to forget for the former all-star.
EPIC BAT FLIP BY JEFF MCNEIL ?
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 8, 2021
McNeil had a very streaky season and started very slow out of the gate. In April, he batted .203 with only four extra-base hits. He followed the theme of a majority of Mets hitters who dragged their way through the opening month. McNeil’s shining moment was an early April game-tying home run in the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins. It was his first hit of the season and helped lead the Mets to a walk-off victory.
Despite the home run, McNeil never got into a consistent groove at the plate. McNeil and Francisco Lindor got into their infamous “rat-coon” debate in the clubhouse in the middle of May. The “debate” was a building conflict from their disagreement on their fielding alignment. Lindor ended up choking McNeil and pinning him up against the wall in the clubhouse. The details of the altercation did not come out until the offseason, but it was clear that both players struggled to get along.
Hot and Cold
Even with the clubhouse distraction, McNeil batted over .300 in May but suffered a hamstring injury which halted his momentum. Once McNeil returned in June, he hit .206 and failed to record a walk. After his rough stretch of games, he got going once the calendar flipped to July. McNeil hit .351 with 27 hits which were his most in any month. The terrific July was not enough to convince the front office that they did not need another second baseman. The Mets acquired Javier Baez at the trade deadline, who took McNeil’s position and was Lindor’s best friend.
McNeil’s offense went into a tailspin for the final two months of the season. He batted just .220 and started only one game at second base once Lindor returned from the injured list on August 24. McNeil transitioned to left field and did not bat above sixth once in the order at any point in September. The combination of his .360 slugging percentage and .170 batting average with runners in scoring position exemplified his ineffectiveness at the plate.
McNeil had an excellent defensive season despite his reluctance to the Mets increased defensive shifting. In late April, he was benched for his stubbornness to follow directions from the coaching staff. Through it all, McNeil had an OAA and DRS of 4 at second base. His solid defense also showed in his small sample size in left field. The combination of his fearlessness and baseball IQ makes him an outstanding defensive player at most positions.
McNeil’s role in 2021 is a mystery because of the uncertainty of what new GM Billy Eppler wants to do. With money invested in Mark Canha, Starling Marte, and Eduardo Escobar, it guarantees he will not have a chance to play left or right field. The colossal contract of Max Scherzer can give him hope that Robinson Cano will be his second base competition instead of Baez.
2021 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2022 Projection)
Hitting: 45 (55), The average decrease is hard to overlook, but the decreased strikeout rate gives hope he can return to the .300 range.
Power:Â 35 (45), Exit velocity remains typical to his career and should return into double digits.
Run:Â 50 (50)
Arm:Â 65 (65), Always very accurate no matter where he plays.
Field: 60 (60)
Overall: 45 (50), McNeil has the track record to show he will bounce back, but he has to prove it big time in 2022.