Mailbag: Internal Right-Handed Outfielder Options

Remy asks:

Why no talk of Puello or Lagaras being a right handed bat in the OF?

Toby Hyde, Mets Minor League Blog:

There’s no talk of using either Cesar Puello or Juan Lagares as a right-handed bat in the OF because neither is ready.

Puello, who turned 21 in April, hit .260/.328/.423 in 66 games with St. Lucie this past year. An early-season muscle strain and then a broken hammate bone interrupted his season. He started to turn his powerful frame into more in-game pop. His .163 isolated slugging percentage and his 9.9% extra-base hit rate were both career-highs for full-season baseball. On the downside, he fanned in 23% of his at-bats and walked in just 2.8%. His on-base percentage, was sustained by 16 hit-by pitches. Guys who fan that much in advanced-A often see precipitous average declines at higher levels (think Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Matt den Dekker). His next step will be double-A in 2013 where he will need to show dramatically better strike zone judgment. Major League pitchers would carve him up right now.

 

Lagares, who will be 24 on Opening Day, 2013, is closer to big league ready, but did not hit for the kind of power in 2012 that would suggest he can be a Major League asset yet. He hit .283/.334/.389 in 130 games for double-A Binghamton, and apparently set a team record for most outfield putouts in a season.  Good news: he makes contact, as evidenced by his 17% strikeout rate. Bad news: he does not walk much (6.8% in 2012). Worse news: his power disappeared in 2012 as his extra-base hit rate slipped to 7.1%, his lowest rate since 2009, and his isolated slugging percentage dropped to .106. He has always been a heavily top-hand hitter, which produces line drives with top spin that sink, rather than backspin that carries for extra-base hits.

For what it’s worth, Lagares hit significantly better against lefties, with more pop than he did against righties this year.

Vs LHP: .333/.382/.477 – a .144 ISO – in 144 PA
Vs. RHP: .264/.317/.357 – a .093 ISO – in 399 PA

Lagares should start 2013 in Vegas.