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Jeff McNeil Was A Different Hitter

In the New York Mets first Spring Training game, Jeff McNeil homered off of Framber Valdez. That was one of the reasons Luis Rojas spoke about McNeil’s untapped power.

Specifically, Rojas said McNeil is a 20-30 homer guy. That may come as a big surprise to Mets fans who have seen McNeil take an Ichiro Suzuki approach by being aggressive at the plate and spraying the ball all across the field to rack up base hits.

However, Rojas has known a different McNeil at the plate. Back in 2018 when Rojas was the manager of the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, he saw McNeil develop as a power hitter.

In 57 games for the Rumble Ponies, McNeil hit .327/.402/.626 with 16 doubles, three triples, 14 homers, and 43 RBI. Extrapolated over a 162 season, that’s 45 doubles, nine triples, 40 homers, and 122 RBI.

That’s the type of hitter McNeil was when people first took notice of him and began clamoring for the Mets to call him up to the majors.

As we know, McNeil has had a different approach in the majors. Instead of looking to drive the ball, he looked to make contact. It was quite successful, and so far, it’s continued to be successful. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t be a power hitter or at least someone who hits for more power.

Right now, it’s difficult to ascertain why McNeil made the switch from a middle of the order type of bat to a table setter. What we do know is there are certain limitations to his swing at everything approach. Essentially, he needs a high BABIP (which he has maintained), and he needs to continue finding holes in an era of advanced data and shifting.

Unlike most hitters who have that approach, McNeil can change. He can be like Francisco Lindor who averaged 42 doubles and 34 homers between 2017 – 2019. Of course, to do that, McNeil has to once again shift his approach.

Maybe that will depend on where he hits in the lineup. It may also depend on the deadened ball. Mostly, it depends on what McNeil wants to do at the plate.

If he wants to continue his current approach, great. It’s led to him being an All-Star. If not, that’s great too as he’s shown he can hit for power.

Overall, McNeil has shown the ability to adapt and thrive. He hit for power to get to the majors, and once there, he hit to get on baseball. Judging from his bat control, he can shift back to hitting for power.

We know he can. The only question is whether he will. Whatever the case, McNeil should thrive this year and in the ensuing years.

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