Jeff McNeil hasn't played in the outfield with any semblance of regularity in more than half a decade. But he's not losing sleep over his transition to come in Port St. Lucie this spring.
During an interview Monday on WFAN, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen reiterated how he anticipates most of McNeil's playing time coming in the outfield. The 26-year-old has mostly played second and third base since the Mets selected him in the 12th round of the 2013 draft.
"McNeil we see being a primary guy in the outfield," Van Wagenen told WFAN's Mike Francesa. "His focus in spring training is gonna be a transition to the outfield because we think we can be a lethal lineup with a McNeil, (Michael) Conforto, (Brandon) Nimmo outfield against right-handed pitching."
McNeil has a grand total of eight outfield appearances across 426 minor-league games and didn't play in the outfield during his 63 major-league appearances in 2018. He also played some outfield back in college at Long Beach State.
Even through these sparse outings, McNeil realizes how versatile his skill set is, which is why he knows the transition won't be hard.
"Not too worried," McNeil said. "I know they're gonna put me a lot [in the outfield] in left, center, or right during games, so I'll get used to it."
The safest option is likely left field for McNeil, with Nimmo and Conforto in center and right field respectively. Regarding center field, McNeil said, "I love it. I had a blast there in college."
His trajectory toward becoming the Mets' 2019 second baseman was derailed when Van Wagenen acquired Robinson Cano from Seattle. With Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier at third base, the Mets are opting to put McNeil in the outfield mix, which also includes Juan Lagares and Keon Broxton while Yoenis Cespedes continues his recovery from surgery on both heels.
The main reason the Mets are pushing this transition is due to McNeil's bat. He hit .329 with a .381 on-base percentage with the Mets last season after hitting .327 in 57 games with Double-A Binghamton and .368 across 31 appearances with Triple-A Las Vegas.
But McNeil isn't concerned with his position as he prepares for his first full major-league season.
"I'll play wherever they want," he said.