Mets plan to use Jeff McNeil in the outfield going into 2019 season
What does this outfield transition mean for McNeil and the rest of the outfield?
With the addition of veterans Jed Lowrie and Robinson Cano, the Mets now have a surplus of infielders. These additions have pushed break out player Jeff McNeil down the depth chart, forcing him to become an ultimate utility player. The Mets plan to work with McNeil this spring to prepare him for an outfield role, knowing how valuable his bat is to their lineup. But what does this mean for Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Juan Lagares? Will this transition to the outfield affect McNeil’s offensive presence.
Signing Jed Lowrie was definitely a huge boost to the Mets’ depth. Adding another veteran presence, more quality at-bats and solid defense is never a bad thing. But let’s not forget that Jed Lowrie is no superstar. He’s solid, but is entering his age 35 season, has issues staying healthy and producing. In his first All-Star season last year, Jed finished with a .267 BA, and an .353 OBP. Again, not bad, but Jeff McNeil is entering his age 27 season and although playing in only 63 games in 2018, finished the year with a .329 BA, and .381 OBP. McNeil put on a clinic in 2018, having consistent quality at-bats and playing a tremendous second base.
It’s important to compare the two because it seems as though Lowrie has now taken McNeil’s role for the 2019 season. And with somehow adding Todd Frazier to the mix, it seems McNeil will rarely see the infield, forcing him to play a position he is unfamiliar with, and possibly even missing out on playing time in general. Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto must be in the lineup on a consistent basis, and with a healthy Juan Lagares it’s difficult to not have a Gold Glove center fielder out there regularly. It’s understandable that guys will need days off, but it’s important to have consistency in baseball. It’s extremely difficult for guys to stay consistent at the big league level if they’re playing different positions every day, or not even playing at all.
Jeff McNeil is an incredible athlete, and I’m sure with the right instruction, will excel in an outfield role. But will this outfield transition affect his offense? It’s obvious that playing in the majors is one of the most difficult things to do; and with a lot of attention on becoming a solid outfielder, the Mets need to be hopeful that Jeff can continue to focus on his offense. Whether it’s believed or not, Jeff is a young phenom, but again, he’s young. Jeff is still learning how to hit in the big leagues, and after his breakout season, pitchers are going to adjust. Which means Jeff needs to continue to learn and adjust in order to stay on his successful path. This obstacle of adjustment can now be jeopardized by the idea of learning an entirely new position.
A comparison to Yankees young superstar catcher, Gary Sanchez, can be assembled. It is known that Gary struggles defensively, and with those struggles, I believe too much focus was directed towards it. This attention restricted him at the plate, creating an extremely disappointing offensive season for Gary. I’m not saying this will be the case for McNeil, also considering the fact that catching is completely different from the outfield, but I do think it’s a possibility and something to take into consideration.
In today’s game analytics are a vital aspect to assembling a team, and understandably so. But these players are still human, and the human factor needs to be taken into consideration when it’s planned to move a natural second basemen who rakes to an unfamiliar outfield role. It will be curious to see how McNeil transitions to the move, and what ends up happening to the rest of the outfield. Jeff McNeil is a superstar in the making, and needs to be comfortable and in the Mets lineup on a consistent basis.
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