Jeff McNeil 2020 Fantasy Baseball Outlook

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Summary: Jeff McNeil’s solid 2019 made believers out of fantasy owners and will once again provide them with solid all around stats in 2020.

How McNeil helps: He’s a solid source of batting average and OBP without sapping anything else. McNeil’s second half last year raises some more yellow flags than red ones, but may also lead to greater value in the long run. He added power after the All-Star game at the expense of average, but in the end his OPS was nearly identical (.917 first half, .916 second half).

While it may seem alarming that he was batting .349 in July and finished at .318, his profile suggests he’s better than the .276 average he posted after the All-Star game. He only strikes out 13.2% of the time and he batted .329 in his 2018 rookie campaign. It seems that he tapped into his gap power, turning his doubles (23 first half, 15 second half) into homers (7 first half, 16 second half).

Regardless if the batting average drops, his on-base should not. He reached base at a .381 clip in 2018 and .384 clip in 2019.

Regardless, it’s pretty reasonable to expect .315+ average and a .380+ OBP again.

How McNeil hurts you:  Outside of the high batting average and OBP (if your league factors on-base), he doesn’t standout in any way. He’s not a high ceiling guy. His power surge in the second half may not be sustainable, but owners can still expect him to fall in the 20-25 range. His low run total (83) and RBI (75) may be a bit deflated by the fact he only played in 133 games, but again neither of those figures can be expected to suddenly be in the top tier.

In the end, he’s probably not going to be an elite player, but he’s a high floor lover’s dream.

Intangibles / Analytics:  McNeil seemed to make a conscious decision to swing more at some point in the 2019 season. He took hacks at 41.6% of pitches outside the zone in 2019, a large spike from 35.3% in his rookie season. He also made less contact (81.4% down from 85.1%). Big league pitchers usually make adjustments to hitters in their sophomore season, and maybe that took until the second half (considering his average sat at healthy .349 at the All-Star break.

The fact that his average dropped and his homers spiked so starkly together shows he may have adjusted to their adjustments, selling out a little bit into some newfound power.

What I like about this is that it confirms that McNeil will never lose his game. Even if he’s struggling in one area, he’s bound to contribute in another.

Where to draft him:  McNeil’s ADP of 93 seems a bit low to me. I’d take him ahead of Victor Robles (80) and Matt Chapman (88). It really depends on the stats in your league. If it doesn’t value OBP, or if you’re playing roto, then maybe the 93 is about right. However, if it’s head-to-head and OPS is a factor, I’d give him a bump. I love consistency and high floor, and McNeil is going to be a gem for those in 2020.

Dynasty and Redraft Comparison: I don’t think there’s much of a difference here for Jeff McNeil. He is only 27, but unless that power surge is real, what he is now is what we should expect in the future.

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