With the additions of Robinson Canó and Jed Lowrie during the offseason and the return of Amed Rosario and Todd Frazier, the Mets’ infield is spoken for at all four positions. That leaves Jeff McNeil, who played 54 of his 58 games at second base last season, on the outside looking in.
Per Matt Ehalt of The Record, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said in an interview on WFAN about McNeil, “His focus in spring training is going to 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, 26, last played the outfield regularly in college. He said, “It’s been a while since I’ve played games, but just about every day in the minor leagues I was taking fly balls. For the most part, I feel really comfortable and I felt really comfortable there when I played in college. That was a while ago, but I had some games out there last year. I played really well out there, so I’m not too worried.”
Last season, McNeil hit a highly productive .329/.381/.471 in 248 plate appearances. Albeit in a small sample size, McNeil didn’t show much of a platoon split in 2018, posting an .866 OPS against right-handers and .812 against lefties. It sounds like the Mets are hoping to get him work in left field initially since it’s the easiest of the three outfield positions to learn.
Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.
The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.
While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.
Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.
It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.