After missing most of 2016 and 2017 due to injuries, Jeff McNeil reworked his swing, was one of the best hitters in all of the minors this season, and is now turning heads with the Mets at the major league level.
So, could the 26-year-old be the Mets' starting second baseman in 2019 and potentially beyond?
Is this the real McNeil or a mirage?
McNeil hit .342/.411/.617 with 19 homers, 26 doubles, five triples, and 71 RBI in 88 games between Double-A and Triple-A before his call-up, and he had nearly as many walks (36) as strikeouts (42).
He achieved the above while relatively old for the leagues he was in, but since McNeil lost basically two years due to injury, he should get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his age. And his revamped swing has been a big part of it...
"Healthy this year, the lefthanded hitter zoomed to Triple-A after improving his launch angle to pair with already-elite contact skills and barrel control," Baseball America's Matt Eddy wrote about McNeil in late July.
Since his promotion to the Mets, McNeil has picked up right where he left off, hitting .364/.462/.606 with two homers and two doubles in 12 games.
The numbers McNeil put up in the minors earlier this season were outrageously good, and his small sample in the majors is obviously not sustainable. But there definitely is a chance that him being a potential big league starter is 'real.'
Who else could play second base in 2019?
Wilmer Flores, T.J. Rivera (still out due to Tommy John surgery), and Phillip Evans could all be on the 40-man roster, but none of them should be considered as a potential full-time second baseman.
Flores simply isn't a good enough defender for the position, Rivera is a total unknown due to his injury issue, and Evans has been deemed expendable by the Mets multiple times.
In the minors, there really isn't anyone close. 19-year-old Andres Gimenez is in Double-A, but at shortstop. And he likely won't make his big league debut until 2020.
Among those expected to be available on the free agent market are old friend Daniel Murphy (who will be entering his age-34 season), Brian Dozier (who is having a down season after two really good ones), DJ LeMahieu, and Josh Harrison (who the Mets had interest in trading for during the offseason).
Aside from R.A. Dickey, who the Mets scooped from obscurity and watched win a Cy Young Award for them, the Mets haven't really had many of these stories lately -- the ones where a guy comes almost completely out of nowhere, surprises, and becomes one of key pieces on the team.
Maybe they deserve one?
It's too soon to tell what McNeil will be, but the Mets need to do their best to find out. He should be starting at second base nearly every day between now and the end of the season. And if he does, the Mets should have a good handle on what to expect from him going forward.