It’s now or never for Mets outfield prospect Cesar Puello. The 23 year old Puello needs to break camp on the Mets 25 man roster this spring, or they will risk losing him to waivers.
Puello is coming off a very disappointing season last year with Triple-A Las Vegas. He batted .252 with just seven home runs in 105 games despite hitting in the favorable conditions of the Pacific Coast League. These numbers were a far cry from his breakout 2013 performance where he demolished Double-A pitching with a .326 average and .950 OPS.
The most common explanation for this drop-off in production is that his numbers in Double-A were fueled by PED’s. Puello was suspended for 50 games late in the 2013 season for his connection to the biogenesis scandal.
While this certainly casts doubt on his numbers that season, a lot of people seem overlooking another possible explanation. Puello advanced to a higher level of competition in 2014, and it is not uncommon for prospects to struggle while adjusting to the challenge.
Mets fans who follow the minors closely know this is a frequent occurrence. Prospects such as Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker experienced similar growing pains after being called-up to AAA. Even Brandon Nimmo saw his numbers plummet substantially after making the jump to Double-A.
These players eventually made the necessary adjustments and showed improved results over time. The encouraging part of Puello’s season was that he was able to make similar progress.
During his last 51 games, Puello batted .279 with a .393 OBP and a.880 OPS. He also carried this momentum into winter ball where he batted .353 with four home runs in 51 at bats.
Puello’s primary competition this spring will likely be Eric Campbell. Campbell is an interesting option because of his ability to play multiple positions, but Puello possesses a far superior upside. Puello still has an exciting combination of raw skills that made him a Baseball America Top 100 prospect several years ago. He can provide good power, speed and defense in right field.
Puello may not be a perfect player, and he made a serious mistake using PED’s in the past. However, he still has the potential to succeed, and there is no harm in giving him a fair shot to make the team out of spring training. The final spot on the roster should be an open competition, and if Puello impresses, he should win the job.