During the first four months of the 2013 season, Cesar Puello has finally displayed why he has been so highly touted as an exciting five-tool prospect.
So far, Puello has performed at an MVP level for the Binghamton Mets, consistently displaying each of his five tools, while absolutely scorching the ball.
His batting average now stands at league leading .334 with a .411 on-base, a .563 slugging, and a .973 OPS that all rank in the top three in the Eastern League.
The righthanded slugger has 21 doubles, 2 triples, and 16 home runs in 84 games thus far, giving him 39 extra-base hits among his 107 total hits this season.
Then there’s his speed. Puello has stolen 24 bases and has been caught 7 times as he showcases another one of his plus tools and it doesn’t end there. He’s a plus right fielder with a powerful arm that has accounted for eight outfield assists already including a rocket to nail a runner at the plate this weekend.
In other words, all of those raw tools that we’ve heard about since he was signed as an International free agent in 2007, are finally all coming together and are on full display.
Puello continues to make strides in areas that he’s been very deficient and works hard daily to improve his overall game. One such are has been his tendency to be a free swinger and overly aggressive at the plate. But even in that area he has shown significant improvement as Joe D. has written about in recent weeks. Also in the plus column, is his willingness to be coached, something that doesn’t always come easy for many young players.
In a recent interview Joe D. conducted with teammate Allan Dykstra, he called Puello one of the most dedicated and hardest worker’s on the team who is out there before and after every game working on his swing.
He has struck out 77 times while drawing 27 walks this season. But that has shifted dramatically in the past 10 games where he has drawn seven walks and has struck out only five times. During Friday’s doubleheader, Puello worked out a walk in both games and he’s become a much more selective hitter at the plate. If this trend continues, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t, the sky’s the limit for this 21-year old budding star.
Now taking all of this into consideration, and adding in his sheer domination of Eastern League pitching, why hasn’t he been promoted yet?
I decided to seek out a trusted Mets Official this weekend to get some clarification on this. Without dropping and names I can only tell you his focus is on player development for the Mets and here is what he had to say regarding Puello:
“We are happy with the job that Cesar has done this year. Hitting coach Luis Natera has put a lot of work in with getting Puello into a position where he can now consistently drive the ball. The two have really clicked and we would like to see what else we can get out of him.”
“Secondly, playing only nine teams in the Eastern League allows him to face teams and pitchers several times. They get a good feel for who he is as a hitter. We want to see Cesar continue to make the necessary adjustments as they pitch tougher to him. The ability to make adjustments is critical at the big league level.”
“Lastly, we would like to keep him in the middle of this playoff race in the Eastern League. It is a great experience playing in high pressure games.”
After my conversation with him, I began to see the logic and wisdom at work here. These are some very valid reasons to keep Puello exactly where he is.
If Puello is working well with Luis Natera, then why mess that up by sending him to Triple-A at this critical stage of his development and at a time where both Puello and his coaches are making significant strides?
At this point, we all know about the bloated numbers that have been coming out of Las Vegas, and how difficult it is to assess some of these prodigious offensive seasons that are so skewed from being generated in a hitter’s paradise. It wouldn’t make sense either to send him straight to the Mets either, if he isn’t a finished product yet.
The fact of the matter is that I agree with the organization’s decision here, and others around me have found it to be logical as well. It continues to test Cesar through one entire season where he can experience high pressure situations while learning how to adjust to the opposition as they continue to adjust to him. As Puello continues to succeed and remains a big part of his first place team, his confidence soars. He is now immersed in a winning culture and has drawn the respect of his teammates who look to him as one the leaders on the field and in the clubhouse. It all makes sense. Why not keep him in Binghamton where he is experiencing what it takes to be a part of a championship caliber team and take in all the lessons that come with winning.
Let me end this by saying that this Mets Official made it crystal clear to me that keeping Puello in Binghamton has absolutely nothing to do with Biogenesis. Nothing whatsoever.
This is all about development.
At 22, Puello is at Double-A and learning how to be a disciplined middle-of-the-order hitter with plus power, plus speed and plus defense, all while being in the thick of an exciting playoff push. He will remain with Binghamton for the rest of this season and everything is going according to plan.
(We want to thank Gordon Donovan for the photo.)