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Mets’ Jeff McNeil is now ‘in the right place’ last season

PORT ST. LUCIE – Jeff McNeil hit everywhere, at every level and in every season – until 2021 left him bewildered.

“Something was wrong,” McNeil admitted Monday. “It’s just finding out what it was.”

The Mets second baseman regressed after posting a combined .319 average in his first three major league seasons, dropping to a .251 campaign with just seven homers in 120 games.

There were signs that McNeil’s breakthrough might come – his average exit speed was actually the second-highest of his career – but it never happened. He continued to tweak his approach and adjust his hand placement, which he says may have done more harm than good.

It’s possible that a few different voices – coach Chili Davis was fired last May – didn’t help either. A season later with batting coach Eric Chavez who he’s “on the same page” with, McNeil is hoping for better and more consistent results.

Jeff McNeil swings during a Mets spring training game.
Corey Sipkins

In the offseason, McNeil watched video clips of his batsmen in 2018, when he went through the Mets system and then posted an OPS of .852 in 63 major league games.

“I think in 18 I had the same swing all year. You can go back and watch the video from the opening day in the minors to the last day in the majors, and for the most part, it’s pretty darn close,” McNeil told the Post. “I think this year it’s just if you have a bad game, don’t change a thing.

If the analytics hint at a bigger problem than bad luck with McNeil’s swing last season, it would be his ground ball rate — a career-worst 46.6 percent.

“Ground players are being eliminated in the big leagues, especially with the change,” said McNeil, whose intense play has made him a frequent victim of the change. “I know that when I’m good, I fly to the right, it’s a good sign. That means my bat path is good, you barely missed it.

Manager Buck Showalter said he could tell McNeil was “in the right place”.

After a season that featured few hits and an altercation with Francisco Lindor before an offseason of trade rumors, the Mets are hoping he’s ready to bounce back.

“You can tell he’s considering going the other way,” Showalter said. “He could mean a lot to us.”

Jeff McNeil
Jeff McNeil

After a few rounds of cuts, the Mets’ major league camp is down to 40 players.

Headliner of the list of eliminated prospects was receiver Francisco Alvarez, the team’s top prospect. The 20-year-old went 1 for 4 with a home run in the Grapefruit League game.

Receiver Nick Meyer, infielders Brett Baty and Matt Reynolds, outfielders Jake Mangum and Carlos Cortes, right-handers José Rodríguez and Antonio Santos, and left-handers Rob Zastryzny and Josh Walker were also reassigned.

Additionally, right-hander Yennsy Diaz was opted for Triple-A Syracuse.