Mancuso: The Good Looks At McNeil

For the Mets it’s about next year and that process continues with who will be a part of putting a contending team on the field. Monday night at Citi Field Jeff McNeil played a role and Amed Rosario is more consistent with his at bats though finished with a 1-for-5 night in a 6-4 win over the Reds.

And it’s younger and more athletic in the infield with the departure of Asdrubal Cabrera to the Phillies, which opened the door for McNeil who was called up form Triple-A Las Vegas two weeks ago.

So more playing time and looks for McNeil.

Rosario continues to develop at 23 years of age. Monday night, manager Mickey Callaway for the second consecutive game had Rosario leading off at shortstop and McNeil second in the lineup at second base.

This is the experiment stage. If McNeill shows he belongs here, then the Mets don’t need to go shopping this offseason for a high profiled free agent, even though fans want to see this franchise spend money on the impact player.

But the early returns show that McNeil belongs at this level. Every intent is to give the 26-year old McNeil the opportunity.

“We need to first and foremost evaluate,” Callaway said. “Is this guy going to be a kid that we might not have to go find a second baseman over the winter.That’s kind of where we’re at right now.”

McNeil is making a case for himself. Another three-hit night and a home run to right field in the sixth inning helped the Mets and his cause. That’s a .364 average, and 8-for-12 in his last three games with two doubles, two home runs, and four RBI in his first 12 games.

“It’s definitely a showcase for me,” McNeil said. “I’m just trying to go out there every single day and play hard. Just play my game. I know if I just play my game everything will take care of itself.”

Another youngster, Dilson Herrera was in that position. But two years ago, Herrera was traded to the Reds for Jay Bruce and second base would belong to Cabrera. Herrera was a top prospect and has never made an impact with the Reds and made a cameo appearance at the plate  Monday night as a pinch hitter.

However this has become a different situation. With Rosario developing and in the lead off spot, McNeill is getting that opportunity right after him in the lineup, and it is very possible this could be the new look when the Mets reconvene next April.

But don’t jump the gun as of yet. There is still plenty of baseball to be played and anything can happen with roster moves in the winter, though eight hits in his last three games does give McNeil an early cause to be here.

The manager likes his approach about going the other way as a left handed hitter. McNeil went with his pitch in the first inning and would come around to score one of three runs in the first inning.

“I really like his approach now,” Callaway said.  And there is some pop with that bat. His home run on the first pitch went deep to the second deck in right field and he was hitting the ball well in Las Vegas,though the PCL is known for the hitter and home run ball.

What matters now is how the Mets evaluate the final two months. John Ricco, the assistant GM, said before the game that McNeil will have time to be evaluated the next two months. And Mickey Callaway, assuming he stays with the plan, will continue to start McNeil and also keep Rosario in the lead off spot.

However, two months can be a difficult time for a rookie and trying to make an impression. Though you would never know that Jeff McNeil is feeling the pressure. If this consistency remains with the at bats, and also with some good range at the position, he could have a future.

So the Mets are not playing for a playoff spot in October. It’s about next year and the evaluation process and Jeff McNeil can become a fan favorite if this consistency and being watched continues down the stretch.

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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