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Cleaning the Silo, Part 3: Say You, Say Me, Cesar Puello... Naturally

And yes, Puello has a ceiling over which you can dance. This next collation of reports revolves around the 19-year old Dominican speedster, Cesar David Puello.

 

The 411

DOB: 4/1/91; Ht/Wt: 6-2, 195; B/T: R/R

Signed for $450,000 out of the Dominican Republic by the trio Ramon Pena/ismael Cruz/Marciano Alvarez (The first two also scouted Mejia, and Cruz had a hand in Flores' development as well), Puello made his stateside debut in 2008, playing 40 games and accumulating 163 PAs with the Gulf Coast Mets. His season numbers:

.305/.360/.364, 7 XBH, 15 SB/5 CS, 5 BB/32 K, 1 HR 17 RBI. In the field, he was 5 FRAA as a right fielder.

Statistically, a very respectable season for a 17 year old outfielder, and if your only gripe about your quick outfielder's first professional season is a lack of power and a low walk rate, there's still plenty of time for adjustments and even more on which to dream. 

After the 2008 season, Kevin Goldstein named him the 14th best Met prospect, but added the following about his rankings:

From there (Flores and Fernando Martinez) it's a mix that is difficult to sort between players nearly ready and players just drafted, and there are realistically eight to ten solid candidates for the bottom three slots.

He then spent the entire 2009 season in the Appy League with Kingsport, posting the following numbers in 221 PAs:

.296/.373/.423, 15 XBH, 15 SB/5 CS, 10 BB/51 K,  5 HR 23 RBI in addition to posting a stellar 8 FRAA patrolling the outfield.

Yes, the K/BB ratio was not pretty, but there was some actualization of his raw power, in addition to the outstanding right field he plays.

KG named him the 13th best Met prospect coming into the 2010 season saying,

13. Cesar Puello, OF: An athletic Dominican who has impressive tools, Puello also has considerable rawness.

Still, always bet on the tools....

Contining his one level a year pace, Puello was assigned to Lo-A Savannah in the Sally League this past season and spent the entire season there, not needing an "overmatched demotion" to Brooklyn. His numbers in 469 PAs:

.292/.375/.359, 24 XBH, 45 SB/10 CS, 32 BB/82 K, 1 HR 34 RBI. 0 FRAA, though rapidly improving range (2.21/game)

The peripheral power took a bit of a dip last year (5.12% XBH down from 6.79%), but scouts still raved over the raw power and the speed is exceedingly encouraging especially when you consider that he had a 4.5/1 ratio of SB/CS (and a career 3.65/1 ratio) and an improved walk rate (6.82% compared to 4.52%) and strikeout rate (17.5% down from 23.1%, not bad, but it beats the shit out of striking out in nearly 1/4 of your PAs) to allow for more chances for that magnificent speed to be employed. All this at age 19 in the Sally League.

After this impressive showing, Kevin Goldstein ranked him the 4th best Met prospect, and a 3 star prospect overall:

Best/Worst Tool: Speed/defense

This teenage Dominican recovered from a slow start to put up impressive numbers at Low-A. Puello is arguably the best athlete in the system. He's a plus-plus runner, and some scouts project some power for him down the road based on his size and strength. His arm is another plus tool, and he made some adjustments to his swing as the season went on, leading to more consistent contact.

The debate over Puello's power is wide-ranging, as some see him becoming a real power threat, while others see a line-drive swing and more of a leadoff profile. His second-half breakthrough came with a far more aggressive approach at the plate, and he'll need to find some balance there. He's a poor defensive outfielder who needs his speed to make up for poor jumps and routes, which have so far limited him to a corner.

If the power comes as some scouts believe, Puello could become a monster. Without it, he's a unique talent as a corner outfielder with a center fielder's skill set. Puello will make his Florida State League debut just days after his 20th birthday. Even if he begins to drive more balls, it won't show up in the stat sheet until he gets to Double-A.

ETA: 2013

(career stats here)

 Rankings/Grades

Baseball Prospectus: 3-star Prospect, #4 in Met system

Baseball America: #3 in Met system, #50 on John Manuel's Top 50 Prospects list, 13th best prospect in the Sally in 2010,

Puello was one of 5 teenagers in the South Atlantic League last year. batting .346 in the second half of these before missing the final three weeks of the season with a strained lower back. Some scouts prefer him to Wilmer Flores because he has 5-tool potential. Puello went on a tear after going from a deep crouch to a more upright stance, giving him a stronger load and better plate coverage on the inner half. Though he homered only once in 2010, he has as much raw power as anyone in the system, and scouts were impressed he never betrayed his all-fields approach to sell out for power. The home runs will come -- potentially as many as 25 annually -- because he accelerates the barrel through the hitting zone with strong wrists, generating ample backspin  and carry. Puello's most evident tool is his plus speed, which he used to steal 45 bases in 55 tries last year. He has a plus arm and covers a lot of ground in right field, but grades as merely and average defender because of unfocused play and lack of centerfield instincts. If Puello truly does hit 20 home runs a year, he'll be a fixture in right field for the Mets for a long time. His first taste of high-A awaits in 2011.

John Sickels: Grade C+

Puello has one of the better tool sets in the Mets system, at least in regards to speed. He has a good throwing arm,  and is a good defender in right field. His speed impressed South Atlantic League scouts last year, but a lack of power is a problem and his plate discipline is marginal for a top-of-the-order player. On the positive side, he's still quite young, still has time to get stronger and drive the ball more effectively, and has been working on modifying his swing mechanics to increase his power. I think long-term potential is considerable, but his career could still develop in a number of ways. If his power increases as as the Mets expect, he'll be a regular; if it doesn't, he's more likely a fourth outfielder. Grade C+  

Hardball Times: #6 in NYM system

6. Cesar Puello / OF / Puello's walk rate needs to improve dramatically, and there isn't much power to speak of, which is concerning for a projected corner outfielder, but Puello, just 19, has a steady bat and the look of a playmaker on the basepaths.

Fangraphs: #8 in NYM system

Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0

Notes: The more you watch Puello, the more you like him. The young prospect showed good offensive potential in low-A ball in 2010 and hit .292/.375/.359 in 404 at-bats. Puello exploded in the second half of the season after he made adjustments to his batting stance and closed some holes in his plate coverage. Speed is the main strength of his game and Puello nabbed 45 bags on the year. He’ll need to show more on-base ability to take advantage of his legs, as he posted a walk rate of just 6.8 BB%. He has long strides while running and has good first-step quickness but he also excelerates well going first-to-third. He’s a solid defensive player who has played right field almost exclusively in his career. He certainly doesn’t have prototypical power for the position (.067 ISO rate in ’10) and projects to have 10-15 homer ability, at the very most. Consider him a sleeper for 2011 and he could zoom up the Mets’ top prospect list.

Diamond Futures: B+, #5 in NYM system


5) Cesar Puello, RF (2010 – Power 32; Discipline 59; First Base Rate 74; Speed 80)

Puello was part of the same 2007 Latin American class that netted Flores. While Puello is actually four months older than Flores, he has typically played a level below him. They both spent time in the SAL in 2010, where Puello posted the circuit’s #5 Performance Score. Despite all of that, there are those in the scouting community that prefer Puello because of his multi-facted game. With plus speed, average power, contact and strike zone management skills, and adequate right field defense, Puello has a ceiling of an above average every day right fielder. There are few knocks on his skill set, but one of the more glaring one is a lack of a substantial baseball IQ. While there is little doubt that Puello could eventually outperform Flores, all of our indications are that Flores is the safer bet. Look for Puello to open 2011 in the FSL.

Matt Garrioch: #4 in NYM system, #5 best Sally prospect in 2010

Scout.com: 60th in their Top 100 Prospects (I'm positive there is a report, but it is subscription only. If anyone has it, I'll add it and give you a nice hat tip).

Prospect Junkies: #78 on their Top 100, 16th best corner OF prospect in minors.

Scouting the Sally (no ranking but a hell of a report):

In early May, I penned an initial scouting report on Cesar Puello in the midst of a .249/.336/.302 first half in which the six-foot-two, 220ish pound outfielder did little to warrant the "Hail Caesar" cheers coming from the stands.  With a few tweaks in his hitting mechanics, Puello became the talk of the South Atlantic League with a .346/.424/.430 second half prior to an injury which ended his regular season in mid-August. Just how much did his offensive outburst raise his prospect stock? Quite a bit as Puello is now considered one of the top shelf prospects in the organization and was a frequent topic of conversation amongst scouts I speak to.

Physical Projection: To look at his stat line alone, one would think Puello was a center fielder in the Xavier Avery mold. However, he’s actually one of the most impressive physical specimens in the league coming in at 6’2″, 220 lbs. or so. As an athlete, he shows off an impressive set of physical tools including above average speed and a strong throwing arm, along with the potential for more power as he matures. With his size, he’s likely to slow down with age, but that decrease in speed is likely to be offset by improved power leaving him with a well-rounded skill set. When the New York Mets promoted center fielder Pedro Zapata to Port St. Lucie, I was mystified that Puello did not receive at least an audition in center field. To be honest, he should have been given a shot to play there regardless.

Offense: Mike Diaz is going to complete a thorough swing breakdown highlighting the differences between pre and post offensive explosion Cesar Puello over at Mets Minor League Blog. And while I won’t go too deep into his mechanical changes, two areas really stand out which deserve mentioning. The first area of improvement was his hand positioning in his load. Early in the season, Puello held his hands just behind his ears in a very weak starting position (see thumbnail pic). As he rocked into his load, his hands moved only slightly leaving him a little more than an inside-out hitter trying to dink and dunk bloopers into shallow right field. Fast forward to July and Puello brought his hands back a few inches into a much stronger starting position, This allowed him to free his hands to attack the baseball on the inner half of the plate giving him better plate coverage. As a part of this change, his hands being freed up let Puello incorporate significantly more bottom hand which is responsible for power. And while I feel he used too much bottom hand at times, it was a pretty remarkable mid-season transformation into one of the best hitters in the South Atlantic League.

Defense: I was thrilled to hear Cesar Puello was being given the chance to play some center field in the instructional league. For whatever reason, initial reports of his deficiencies on defense were greatly overblown as I consistently saw an above average right fielder with the most accurate outfield arm in the league who deserved a shot to man center field. In the South Atlantic League, the Yankees and Red Sox affiliates both had former first round picks manning center field in Slade Heathcott and Reymond Fuentes. Without hesitation, I would take Cesar Puello over either of those players.

Speed: With home-to-first times in the 4.15-4.20 range, Cesar Puello is a 65 runner on the 20-80 scale. And while 45/55 in stolen base attempts is awfully impressive, it’s important to understand Puello combines above average speed with strong jumps and baserunning instincts. As I said earlier, he will probably slow down with age due to his size, but he still projects as a 25+ stolen base threat at the big league level and that’s a relatively conservative estimate.

And while Cesar Puello has raised his prospect stock significantly, he’s not without question marks. One home run in 400+ at bats is a true head-scratcher as there’s just no way a player with his size and strength should have the slugging percentage of a middle infield prospect. A good comparison for positional value is current Mets outfielder Angel Pagan whose 10+ HR, 30+ SB season with good average/on base percentage totals make him a true asset in center field. But whether fair or not, the luster wears off some at the thought of Pagan as an everyday right fielder at the big league level over the course of a full season due to a lack of power. It’s the same battle Puello will face as he progresses through the system should he remain a corner outfielder with "tweener" offensive skills. Pagan’s 2010 is actually a very good comp for Puello’s top end offensive projection, only Puello will not provide the kind of defensive value Pagan chips in on a nightly basis.

 

Also, from Scouting the Sally, video of Puello from Early 2010,

 

and video from August 2010

I see much less pronounced leg kick in his swing (maybe that was a timing mechanism), but someone who is still susceptible to down and away pitches.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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