It might be the question you ask yourself about Jeff McNeil, who is certainly among MLB's most surprising stars.

He did not play high school baseball until his senior season. The Mets drafted him in the 12th round in 2013, but a string of injuries followed as he began his career in the minors.

How is he now one of baseball's best?

Sometimes, the answer is not clear. Sports are great because we have plenty of unconventional journeys like the one McNeil took.

  

Confidence 

McNeil's confidence has grown since high school.

He joined a scout ball team as a high school senior. One day, a recruiter came to watch him play. McNeil, as the story goes, dominated.

To Mark Kertenian, the recruiter, it showed McNeil's confidence.

The kid was a golfer all through his school. He had not played baseball in years. Yet here he was, with a recruiter watching him, showing out in his first game back.

There's a general cliché in sports about rising to the occasion. Some thrive on the big stage, some do not.

McNeil did, and still does. He's played better at each level he's reached.

Not much swing and miss

Sagisi, the scout ball coach, immediately noticed something about McNeil: His offensive game did not include much swing and miss. Sagisi once threw McNeil batting practice and tried to make him look silly, but could not.

He still possesses that quality. Per FanGraphs, McNeil has made contact on 82.3 percent of pitches at which he's swung.

For context: That's slightly better than the Angels' Mike Trout — though Trout has played longer — and a few percentage points below Houston's Alex Bregman. Good company there.

Years ago, Kertenian watched a young McNeil. He was sure McNeil could succeed in college because the barrel of his bat found the ball almost every time. In that first game Kertenian watched, he realized that McNeil did not swing and miss once.

For pitchers, the tough part is how McNeil handles a pitcher's pitch. He swings at pitches outside of the zone 38.5 percent of the time. He makes contact on over 70 percent of those.

He never gives away at-bats.

Where does McNeil fit?

Everywhere.

Well, pretty much.

Former manager Mickey Callaway once said McNeil would pitch if you let him. He's that type of player.

He is expected to start at third base for the Mets when baseball returns. But he provides the club with options.

He can play right and left field. And at second base. The Mets can move him around based on injuries or off days.

McNeil provides them extra coverage in many spots.

Three questions for the future

1. Will McNeil win a batting title? He led the league in batting average at the All-Star break last season, and he's remained consistent since coming up to the majors in 2018.

2. How many All-Star appearances will he have in his career? He notched his first last season. He might have had those goals, but each seems like a treat considering he came out of nowhere to earn a college scholarship before continuing to improve from there.

3. Will any position become somewhat permanent? This probably depends on the Mets' future rosters. McNeil can play in a lot of places as needed, but it will be intriguing to see if he remains at one more than the rest as his career progresses.

toscanoj@northjersey.com

Twitter: @justinctoscano