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Jeff McNeil Must Bounce Back

Jeff McNeil, Mets
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Jeff McNeil must bounce back for the New York Mets to be contenders this season.

After winning the 2022 National League batting title with a .326 average, McNeil hit just .270 last year and never looked comfortable at the plate.

Up and Down Average

Although McNeil’s offensive numbers were not that bad last season — .270 is an adequate batting average — they were not exactly worthy of the batting title. If you remember, McNeil got off to a decent start in April and May before hitting just .196 in June and .230 in July. This dropped his overall batting average to .246. After a couple of batting adjustments, he did work his way back to that .270 average in August and September.

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Jeff McNeil‘s Injury

On Sept. 11, 2023, McNeil slid into second base and his left arm collided with the head of Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Jordan Lawlar. He played through the discomfort for the next two weeks until an MRI revealed that he had a partially torn UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) in his left elbow. He was able to avoid surgery by receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection.

Team Leader

McNeil is considered one of the Mets’ team leaders. He signed a four-year, $50 million contract extension in February 2023 and is under team control through 2026. McNeil enjoys being a Mets player and is expected to be their starting second baseman in 2024. However, he can also play the outfield and may see time there, too.

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No Concern for Jeff McNeil

Jeff McNeil needs to bounce back, but the odds are in his favor. Let’s remember that last year he scored more runs and hit more home runs than he did in 2022. When he won the batting title, it came after the worst season of his career. He has already mentioned that when he returns, he will be more patient with his pitch selection. He will also need to improve his contact and get back to being a line-drive hitter.

Spring Training

Spring Training games have started, but McNeil has not appeared in a big-league game yet. Manager Carlos Mendoza mentioned that he could return to the mix on Tuesday. So far, he has mostly done dry swings and practicing off the tee, and he also appeared in a minor league game on Sunday. McNeil did report some discomfort earlier but associated it with the process of regaining strength. On a positive note, he reported no bicep discomfort.

Mets to Contend in 2024

Jeff McNeil must bounce back if the Mets want to contend. They have a powerful offense with Pete Alonso, Francisco Alvarez, Francisco Lindor, and Brandon Nimmo. Having a healthy McNeil who can get on base will only help them.

His defense will also be counted on for the Mets to win some games. He is excellent at patrolling second base and is an adequate defender in the outfield. What remains to be seen is whether the hitting momentum he displayed at the end of last season will continue through the start of this season.

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The good news is that if McNeil can propel his average above .300, getting on base for the power hitters, the Mets will be considered contenders for a postseason bid.


Main Image Credit:

Embed from Getty Images

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