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20.09.2018

Mets infield prospect finally adds part of his game that was missing.

The offseason work and the gym sessions that never ended are paying off for Jeff McNeil. Three years later. The late-blooming Mets prospect is having his career year — really, a year that can save his career — and showing power that hadn’t existed prior to his body transformation following the 2015 season. A 2013...
Time: 00:30     Date: 18.06.2018
Last US Sport News: Mets infield prospect finally adds part of his game that was missing. NY Post 24 - US News

Three years later.

The late-blooming Mets prospect is having his career year — really, a year that can save his career — and showing power that hadn’t existed prior to his body transformation following the 2015 season.

A 2013 12th-round pick who was a 6-foot-1, 165-pound utility player and slap hitter believed he had to muscle his way onto the Mets’ radar after three minor league seasons and four home runs. So he pumped iron, trying to pump a new dimension into his game for a solid, but not spectacular bat.

But the DL stints piled up when he hoped homers would.

His 2016 season with Double-A Binghamton was derailed after three games, a double sports hernia first sitting him down before he needed hip labrum surgery that ended his season.

He made it through four games last year — having taken a step back to Single-A St. Lucie — before a quad issue stapled him to the bench for two months.

He eventually rebounded and actually had a cup of coffee with Triple-A Las Vegas last season, but he was an aging infielder without a true position whose name couldn’t be found on any top-prospect lists.

As a 26-year-old, that could be changing.

“We had a 10:30 [a.m.] game, our coaches were talking to us after — they waited so everyone was around,” McNeil said, reliving the moment he heard the news. “[Manager Luis Rojas] just said me and Alonso were heading up.

“Just excited. Ready to keep it going.”

This is not the same player the Mets drafted out of Long Beach State, though he still has a contact hitter’s brain. McNeil would frustrate Eastern League opponents by outsmarting them. The lefty hitter with a new power stroke would see shifts — and then slap the ball the other way.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats manager John Schneider remembered a “97-hopper to the shortstop hole” that won a game for Binghamton. McNeil also will drop a bunt down the third-base line when he sees the chance.

“I’m not always going to be [just] a home run hitter,” said McNeil, who went 0-for-3 in Las Vegas’ 5-3 loss on Sunday. “I want to get on base, I’m gonna take a hit wherever. They do a full shift, I want to [find a way] to get to first. I can do that.”

“He’s not going to wow you in terms of tools, in terms of speed, but he finds a way to get it done,” Schneider said of McNeil, who entered the Mets system as a stolen-base threat, but is not quite the same a few surgeries later. “[He’s a] smart hitter — when he got his pitch, he didn’t miss it.”

It’s taken six years in the Mets system for McNeil to get his first legitimate shot at his major league debut, and he doesn’t want to miss that, either. With the Mets floundering and the minor league talent thin, they’re testing and positioning the prospects they do have.

McNeil and Alonso are now a step away, and recent first-round picks Justin Dunn and David Peterson recently were bumped up, to Binghamton and St. Lucie, respectively.

If the roster spot clears up, McNeil knows his long wait in the minors could be over. But with a newly powerful swing, the aging prospect said he doesn’t think this is his last chance.

“I still got a lot of years of baseball left,” he said. “I don’t feel too much pressure. Hopefully I can get up there as quick as possible.”

Sport

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Opinion

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Living

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Business

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Metro

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Sport

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