Now that the 2019 schedule is out, the Mets may also have found their 2019 second baseman in Jeff McNeil.
In this launch-angle age, McNeil is a path-to-ball hitter. You know, a guy who makes contact. It’s kind of refreshing, and he is off to a rocket start.
“He reminds me of Daniel Murphy,’’ a scout who has followed McNeil in the minors told The Post on Wednesday.
That is some high praise.
“He puts the bat on the ball and he leaves the bat in the hitting zone a long time,’’ the scout said. “He makes solid contact and now that he has gotten a little stronger, he is starting to drive the ball. He is just a late bloomer because I have seen him through the years.
“You know how they say a player in the field has a nose for the ball,’’ the scout added. “Well, he has a nose for the ball at the plate.’’
Does he ever. McNeil, 26, is batting .333.
The lefty-hitting McNeil tripled and lashed a two-out, RBI-single off a 3-0 pitch — the first time in his pro career he swung at a 3-0 pitch, he said — his first two times up Wednesday night in the Mets’ 5-3 win over the Giants at Citi Field, giving him eight straight at-bats with a hit before the streak was broken with a ground out.
The eight straight hits are a Mets rookie record and one shy of the club record. He owns a seven-game hitting streak and has multiple-hits in five straight starts, the longest streak by a Mets hitter this season.
“I got lucky enough that eight fell in a row,’’ McNeil said of the streak.
McNeil has put together two four-hit games, becoming the first player in team history to have two four-hit games within the first 27 games of his career.
But McNeil’s trek to the big leagues was not this smooth. He has had hip and leg injuries, so it has been a battle to stay on the field. He played in only three games in 2016.
“I went to rehab for six months with the hip,’’ McNeil said.
Along with that, the Mets too often shuffle players around to different positions and the scout believes that hindered McNeil’s overall development.
“The Mets jerked him around,’’ the scout said. “He’s a second baseman. They were playing him at third. They played him in left field and then he started getting hurt. If you look at his numbers he has always hit for average, not much power, but for average. But he’s gotten stronger and now he is driving the ball and he has his confidence now. The Mets have a player.’’
If the Mets go out on the free-agent market and get a second baseman, McNeil will likely become a utility man next season.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy, however, is impressed.
“He puts the ball in play and there is value to that,’’ Bochy said.
McNeil, who is a scratch golfer and played his college baseball at Long Beach State, keeps it simple at the plate. Hit the ball where it is pitched and run hard.
“I’m just a gritty player who plays hard,’’ McNeil said. “I play dirtbag baseball. I come out every day and give it all I got.’’
The Mets could use more of that style, one that has his manager thrilled.
“So far his bat-to-ball skills have been at an elite level,’’ Mickey Callaway said. “You see guys like [the Giants’ Tony] Watson who is traditionally pretty good against lefties and [McNeil] goes up there and slaps the ball the other way on the first pitch. He’s done a great job. He’s covering lefties. He’s covering righties. He’s fouling balls off. He’s running out of the box hitting singles up the middle. He is staying in there on changeups and driving them out of the park on occasion.
“He’s going to continue to learn things at the major league level and hopefully he will continues to get better and better,’’ Callaway said. “He’s got the confidence to go out there and square up a 3-0 pitch.’’
The Mets, so far, have a second baseman with similar skills to what they once had in Murphy. That’s a hit.
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