Tom Brennan - Majoring on the Minors: Top 30 Prospects - #9 Cesar Puello



I’m doing my Top 30 Prospects articles a bit differently – in 2 lists:
·       A top 10 list of lower minors guys who likely won’t show up until 2017 or later.  Already done. See list at end of this article. 

·       Followed by my top 20 list of guys who are closing in on the big leagues.  Guys who could help in the near future or be trade bait. 

Here is the list so far:

20.   Daniel Muno

19.   Michael Fulmer

18.   Miller Diaz

17.   Dario Alvarez

16.   Jayce Boyd

15.   Rob Whalen

14.   Hansel Robles

13.   Gabriel Ynoa

12.   Gavin Cecchini

11.   Jack Leathersich

10.   Cory Mazzoni

Today, selection #9: CESAR PUELLO

I will just recap a recent article I wrote on Puello, which says it all. 
Cesar has been in the organization forever.  Signed very young, and began playing at 17, hence people’s impatience with him.  He turns 24 just before opening day 2015, still a young dude with real upside.  Let's recap:

Age 17 – .305, .350 OB% in 40 games in the Gulf Coast League.

Age 18 – 49 games in Kingsport A ball - .296, .373 OB%, .423 slug %.

Age 19 -Savannah – 109 games.  Similar average and OB%, but only one homer.  Shades of Dominic Smith circa 2014!  But he stole 45 of 55, in 2/3 of a full big league season’s # of games.  Wow.

Age 20 – 10 HRs in St Lucie, so the strong man’s bat was showing some pop finally, but in 117 games, he slipped to .259/.313/.397. 

Age 21 – he repeats St Lucie and injury bug hits, limiting him to 66 games.  Still so-so with .260/.328/.423, but swipes 19 of 21, a lot for so few games.  Oh, and Biogenesis is becoming an issue.

Age 22 – while awaiting the 50 game suspension in 2013, Cesar explodes in AA, with a .326/.403/.547 slash in 91 games, with 24 steals.  Crushed lefties with a Ruthian .842 slug %, and against righties, he was fine, thank you for asking: .298/.379/.459. A spectacular short season, despite a slow April.  After his suspension, though, he plays winter ball – does terribly. Puzzling.

Age 23 – a pretty baffling April thru June in his AAA debut in 2014, but Puello followed that with a good 2nd half while Wally puzzlingly continued to play him part time – he only got up 318 official at bats last year. July - Sept, he hit .284 with almost a .400 on base and about a .500 slug % playing part time.  Nuts.  You’ve got a guy with 5 tools, let him use them.  He did not hit righties well in 2014.  

So after his puzzling lack of use in 2014, he goes to winter ball and needed several trips to the infirmary to get bench splinters removed from the place where his anatomy meets the bench.   In his team’s first 43 games, he gets into just 23 of them, many in a pinch hit or substitution capacity.  In his team’s first 43 games, 25 at bats!!! 

But 12/12/14 was a great day to buy Puello stock, as he gets a start for the first time in 9 days and goes 5 for 6 with 2 extra base hits.  Causing his manager to realize Puello is actually on the team.  So from the 12th through the 21st, the rediscovered Puello goes 12 for 26 with 4 doubles and 4 homers, with 3 walks thrown in.  (Then the season ends)

Puello kills lefties (slugged .842 and .525 the past 2 years) but struggled vs. righties for most of 2014.  So he can’t, but against righties in 2013 in AA, he was a fine .298/.379/.459, so I just think they misused him last year.  They wasted at bats on veteran guys – Puello should have been up 250 more times in 2014. 

In winter ball in his sporadic playing time, he was nailing righties (11 for 34, a double and 3 HRs), so that is very promising.

So let’s see: Cannon arm; blazing speed (56 of 66 in steals over the past 3 years in only about 1,000 plate appearances); power too.  And he gets hit by pitches like they are going out of style (115 times in slightly over 2,300 plate appearances), so he never has a low on base %.

Let’s compare him to a different player that always seems to be talked up by the analysts: Brandon Nimmo. 

Nimmo will turn 22 next March so Puello is almost exactly 2 years older to the day.  Puello had his great AA season at 22.

Nimmo had a fine 2014 start in A ball at 21, but then struggled after his promo to AA last year, followed by a weak winter ball stint, so while everyone seems to rank him higher than Puello, I have to wonder.   Nimmo has to really show something to me this year to show he is as good or better than Puello; Nimmo has to step it up.

Back to Puello: 2013 and 2014 were years of highs and lows, but the two years together totaled only slightly more plate appearances than if he led off for the Mets for 162 games.  So how did his combined 2013 and 2014 stats look?  You judge: 649 official at bats, 122 runs, 41 doubles, 4 triples, 23 homers, 110 RBIs, 37 of 45 in steals.  .290/.380/.471. 

Conclusion: I think it would be a huge mistake to lose this guy.  I really think he could be another Carlos Gomez.  We’ll see in spring training.


# 1 - Marcos Molina

#2 – Michael Conforto

#3 – Amed Rosario

#4 – Dominic Smith

#5 - Jhoan Urena

#6 – Vicente Lupo

#7 – Wuilmer Becerra

#8 – Luis Guillorme

#9 - Casey Meisner

#10 - Milton Ramos


Reese Kaplan said...

If you consider that Murphy, Flores and Cuddyer can play 3B, Tejada and Flores can play SS, Tejada, Murphy and Tejada can play 2B and Duda, Cuddyer, Mayberry, Murphy and Flores can play 1B, I think the team could forego Eric Campbell's "versatiility" in favor of Puello's speed and power, as well as defensive prowess to replace Cuddyer late in games. Campbell has options. den Dekker has options. Puello does not. It seems a simple decision to me.

Thomas Brennan said...

I agree, Reese. Unless Puello stinks up camp this spring, that's the direction I go in. get him on the 25 man.

Under that scenario, poor den Dekker would miss being on the squad on opening day - tough to take after he hit about .375 combined in AAA and majors from late June on. Tear up AAA and Matt can show 2014 was not a fluke.

Thomas Brennan said...

While I pick on Nimmo a bit in this article, I saw an article this AM indicating that "coming in at #18 is Brandon Nimmo...the MLB Yearbook is high on Nimmo as the following description attests.

“Because he works a lot of walks, Nimmo is more of an OBP guy than a batting-average hitter. He has started to show some pop the past two seasons, and should top out as a 20-homer threat. Citi Field caps his power upside, but he’s an on-base machine with pop.”

I want to see an explosive year out of Nimmo in 2015.

Christopher Soto said...

We are at an interesting point in regards to Nimmo.

Value wise....

Nimmo currently is an extremely valuable commodity because of the fact that he produces a high OBP (.350+) and brings 15 HR pop.....as a CF.

Something that only 3 MLB players did in 2014. Mike Trout,Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez.

However, if he proves that he cannot handle CF at the MLB level.....then his value significantly drops as the # of players who can hit 15 HRs and OBP .350+ is much greater (15 players in 2014.)

Plus there's the fact that he would have to supplant Juan Lagares and his superb defense from the position.

Adam Smith said...

I have a strong suspicion that an OF platoon of Puello and den Dekker would out-produce Granderson over a full season - not to mention they'd be better defensively. But we're not going to see that because of Grandy's contract, and also because "the casual fan" has heard of Granderson ("He hit lots of HR's for the Yankees!) so having him makes it look like they're trying to win. Which is why they signed him in the first place.

It should be noted that the assumed desire of the "casual fan" for more offense is also what's behind the absurd idea to outlaw the shift. Really and truly, I'd rather they let hitters go back to using amphetamines.

Thomas Brennan said...

Good point, Chris, and I hope Nimmo exceeds everyone's projections.

Not to beat the Puello thing to death, but his on base % the past 2 seasons? .380, off of a great (shortened) 2013 and an uneven 2014. 115 career games in CF, though mostly a RF. Every angle I look at this guy, he hits me as a guy who, if it finally clicks, could be a fine starting player.

His minor league #'s remind me of Amos Otis. Then Otis hit a paltry .190 with no homers in 142 at bats in 1967 and 1969. After that, of course with other teams, he hit roughly .280, 200 homers and 1000 RBIs. And a pretty fine glove and 340 career steals.

Thomas Brennan said...

Adam, only writers for Mack's Mets can use amphetamines. I agree with you on that platoon. Whatever offensive shortfall (if any) a platoon of Dekker and Puello would have vs. an aging Grandy, their defense would far outshine his. Net, I think they'd be as good or better.

Maybe we see that come July, if someone wants to take Grandy and his remaining 2.5 years and $40MM off of our hands.

Hobie said...


I agree that Cesar should come north in April. I think Nieuwenhuis will eventually be the odd-man out here as den Dekker should be the 4th OF'er options notwithstanding.

Thomas Brennan said...

I'd just like to add that while I have Puello at #9 in my full season list, he is my overall #12 in Mets system - I have Conforto, Rosario and Molina from the short season leagues ahead of Cesar.

Thomas Brennan said...

Hobie, I agree. I'm a Dekker guy over Kirk as well. Latter has struck out too much for me so he loses the head-to-head with Dekker, IMO.

Christopher Soto said...

Of Topic.....

PECOTA projections are out and they have the Mets finishing 82-80.

Missing out on a wild card spot by 1 game.

Adam Smith said...

Thomas, from your keypad to the baseball gods' ears. But I cannot imagine another front office in baseball picking up the last 2.5 years of that contract. The catch-22 is that if he somehow hits well enough for half a season for that to become a possibility, there's no way the Mets trade him.

I like Grandy as a person (I mean, I don't actually know him personally but he seems like a terrific guy) but I have to say that his contract - in dollars and years - is the primary turd in the punchbowl at this party.

Thomas Brennan said...

I find it hard to believe that 82-80 is all we'll do - think they're wrong. Incrementally, at almost every position, I think we can expect to do better, except for 1B and 2B. And have better starting and relief pitching.

Adam, the Grandy turd in the punch bowl smells a little too much like the Turd in the Bay we previously endured. Let's hope the current one is less turdy.

When a ballplayer turns turdy, it is better off if the turd is over the hill.

eraff said...

A team "on the cusp" needs to Answer questions...not ADD questions. It's far more likely that Grandy will recover to a 750-780 ops with pop, and a bit of upside versus the pretend platioon of two guys who have yet to accomplish anything.

The win projections seem low--- I'm at 83-87 (I do "spans") as constructed. Below 83 would be a real shame. 83/84/85 is likely.

Mack's Mets © 2012