Cesar Puello Scouting Report (Late 2010)
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.
24 Jan 2014 / Mike Newman /
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