While David Wright's mentorship was the feel-good moment of the day, Cesar Puello and Brandon Nimmo made my jaw drop the most. I knew Noah Syndergaard was going to wow me. I knew Harvey was going to be exciting. I knew Wright was going to draw a crowd. I did not expect to see a hitting showcase when I wandered over to a back field to see Nimmo and Puello taking BP in a group with Gavin Cecchini.
From what I could tell, the trio was working on hitting to all fields in this drill. They would each get 7-8 pitches per turn from a pitching coach. First couple were sent down opposite field down the line, then opposite field, then opposite field gap, then center, then pull gap, then pull, then pull down the line. You get the idea. Brandon Nimmo looked like a master. Not only was his placement immaculate, but he worked the opposite field with power I did not know he had. The ball sounded hard coming off of his bat and this was on a slow-pitch placement drill to the opposite field. Think about that for a second.
I started watching the drill when Gavin Cecchini was at the plate and had no idea what the drill was. As soon as Nimmo started his turn, I saw the pattern. Cecchini looked like a high school player next to Nimmo and Puello. Cecchini's calling card has been his glove and speed, but he will have to hit. After seeing him take batting practice, I cannot be all that enthusiastic (although, this was a drill, and it was ten minutes. Tough to judge from that short of a time). Cecchini was very polite with the fans who asked for autographs after the workout, and from what I could tell, he is a very nice guy.
Though Cecchini did not impress me, I cannot say enough about Brandon Nimmo and Cesar Puello. While Nimmo looked like a maestro conducting an orchestra with the precision of his bat, Puello looked more like an ax-wielding logger with brute strength and vengeance in his swing. He did the drill just fine but not at the same caliber as Nimmo until we got to his pull side. While Puello went the other way just fine, he seemed much more comfortable yanking the ball down the left field line.
Towards the end of the session, Puello yelled out something in Spanish to his pitching instructor who started delivering the ball to home plate with more velocity. Puello started turning on them and launching them well over the left field fence, the balls bounding into a parking lot endangering windows and windshields of innocent cars. Puello has some serious strength. I stood next to him and he is a broad, muscular 6'2" or 6'3" and looks perfectly built for right field.
Puello has caused waves in his time in the minor leagues and there seems to be little commitment to his future on the Mets which is a shame. When I look at Kirk Nieuwenhuis, I see a 4th or 5th outfielder who is already over-exposed at the plate but offers versatility and defense that a team needs. I see much of the same with Matt den Dekker. I see a lesser player but a more diverse one in Eric Campbell. I see a solid starting right fielder with Cesar Puello. The tools are there. He is such a tough case because he put the team in a bad situation with his Biogenesis mistake, he did not perform well last year, and the Mets must make a decision to keep him (potentially instead of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who has, conversely, done nothing to anger the organization). I want the best 25 guys on the roster, though. Puello is one of them.
Perhaps, though, the reluctance to develop Puello comes from a combination of strong major league options already in place and the presence of the most impressive member of the trio taking batting practice on the back field on Monday, Brandon Nimmo. The sky is the limit for the former first round draft pick who seems to have grown into some solid power. His eye is incredible. His bat control and balance look years beyond his age. Get excited about this guy. He is going to be really really good.
In conclusion, I had a blast at spring training. I only got to attend for a day and you can see how much I absorbed and enjoyed. I wrote six posts about it for crying out loud. I hope I get to go back again and I love that the Mets let fans get so close to their idols and all for free. Tradition Field and the complex behind the stadium is absolutely gorgeous and Port St. Lucie is a wonderful slice of coastal Florida that every Mets fan needs to get to at least once.
Thank you for reading.