An underrated player who is usually under the radar, and had hernia surgery that put him on the shelf last year when a breakout was definitely due. He also got engaged the other day, so I decided to cover him instead of a Spring Training Invitee. No worries, I will cover him next time.

INF Jeff McNeil

L/R, 6’1′, 190, 4/8/1992 (25), Drafted 12th Round, 356th Overall out of California State University, Long Beach, Unknown Bonus

2013 21 0.5 Kingsport Rk 47 199 54 9 2 0 18 11 2 17 14 .329 .413 .409 .822
2014 22 -0.1 2 Teams A-A+ 117 506 128 28 4 3 51 17 5 42 59 .292 .367 .394 .761
2014 22 0.5 Savannah A 59 265 77 20 2 2 38 15 3 20 34 .332 .401 .461 .862
2014 22 -0.7 St. Lucie A+ 58 241 51 8 2 1 13 2 2 22 25 .246 .329 .319 .648
2015 23 0.2 2 Teams A+-AA 123 545 149 18 6 1 40 16 6 36 61 .308 .369 .377 .746
2015 23 0.3 St. Lucie A+ 119 529 146 18 6 1 40 16 5 35 59 .312 .373 .382 .755
2015 23 -1.5 Binghamton AA 4 16 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 2 .200 .250 .200 .450
2016 24 -0.3 Binghamton AA 3 14 3 1 0 1 2 1 0 2 1 .250 .357 .583 .940

The 12th round pick in 2013, McNeil has been under the radar pretty much every year, and was literally non-existent in 2016, but will look for a resurgence in 2017, and shouldn’t be overlooked, even if he will be 25 directly on Minor League Opening Day and likely repeating Double-A. McNeil opened with a bang, hitting .329/.413/.409, placing fourth in the Appalachian League in batting average  which impressed the Mets to send him to full season ball the next year.  During his debut, he walked (17) more than he struck out (14)

McNeil then destroyed the South Atlantic League, hitting .332/.401/.461 with 24 extra base hits in 59 games and appeared in the SAL All Star Game before being sent to High-A. He stumbled there, hitting .246/.329/.319 and 11 extra base hits in 58 games. He came back with a resurgence in 2015 with a .312/.373/.382 line with 25 extra base hits. While the power isn’t all the way back, it’s important to note that the league St. Lucie is in suppresses power to a degree, nonetheless, McNeil still hit pretty well for what his skills are. He joined Binghamton at the end of 2015 and recorded three hits in 16 plate appearances. He didn’t play too well in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .230/.309/.246 in 20 games, but then opted to work out instead of going to international winter leagues.

Prior to the 2016 season, McNeil showed that he worked very hard, and added 25 pounds of good weight, adding a bit more power. However, he wasn’t able to show his new skill as he went down with a sports hernia right away, and had to have hip surgery to remove it and miss the year. I expect him back in the same placement for 2017 as he was in 2016.

As for scouting report, McNeil is a pure hitter. A career .300/.372/.383 hitter, McNeil has just beat up on the lower minors, but needs a little time to adjust each time. He has a nice smooth left handed stroke and hits to all fields. A disciplined hitter,  McNeil doesn’t strike out much, but he doesn’t walk a large amount either. The other thing he doesn’t do it hit for power, as he weighs more than his career  .083 Isolated slugging percentage. However, with his added bulk, he was able to add some power to jump up a grade and a half, and possibly hit annually 10 homers (if he’s kept in shape post-surgery).

Pre-surgery, he was an above-average runner, and could play short in a pinch if he really wanted to, range-wise. He stole a few bases in the past, up to 17 as his career high. He has played third base some, and second base at times as well, and his arm is average strength, which may be a stretch at third base and shortstop but great at second base. His hands are pretty soft at the keystone position, and he can definitely play it well as a starter.

What we don’t know yet is his ceiling, because we aren’t sure if his power has truly manifested like it had shown in batting practice, or if he’s going to remain a singles hitter. Also, a hip surgery is something to be wary of moving forward. If he doesn’t have power manifest, he will stay a utility player ceiling. If he does develop power, he can be a starting second baseman. Either way, he’s going back for a third time to Double-A Binghamton, to hopefully have a healthy year at second base primarily.

(Photo Credit: Helene Haessler)

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