Why Ranked Here: Puello is back in the top ten for the third time in four years because he finally turned his prodigious tools into production in 2013 and he should make his MLB debut in 2014. There’s a chance that he puts together an MLB career as a right fielder who adds value to his team through plus defense, some homeruns and stolent bases.
Puello has some of the best physical gifts in the Mets’ system. He’s a plus runner. He owns a plus arm. He’s jacked with big shoulders and arms. He plays extremely hard. He’s willing to wear pitches to get on base, and enjoys stealing bases and getting dirty. The question is simply whether he will hit enough to play everyday.
He’s an extremely aggressive hitter who eats up fastballs. He has the batspeed to get around and pull even good heat. Sliders and soft stuff generally, can fool Puello and catch him out front. He puts his whole body into swings when he identifies pitches early as he does in the homer below.
The range in opinion on Puello among scouts was predictable. Some saw the tools to be an everyday rightfielder. Others were concerned about his approach and the Biogenesis connection. Even the guys who liked Puello expressed some hesitation. The guys who were skeptical of Puello recognized the tools that could play.
2013: For the first 100 games of the 2013 baseball season, in his age 22 season, Puello was the best player in the Eastern League. He raked at .326/.403/.547 with 16 homers and 24 stolen bases in 31 attempts in 91 games. His .391 BABIP is unsustainable, but knock 70 points off that, and his power and speed still play in the big leagues.
Puello was suspended for the duration of the 2013 season for his connection to the Biogenesis clinic on August 5. The Mets were convinced that the usage was during 2012, but he played 2013 clean.
Puello got better as his year went on.
First 46 games April 4 –May 31: .289/.372/.488 with 7 HR, and 12 walks (6.4%), a .347 BABIP in 188 PA.
Final 45 games from June 2-August 1: .364/.434/.606 with 9 HR, and 16 walks (8.5%) and a .436 BABIP in 189 PA
Well much of his better performance was the result of better results on balls in play, his isolated slugging percentage rose from .199 to .242 in this run. Also, BABIP in the minors reflects hard contact and Puello was hitting the ball very hard, very consistently.
Puello absolutely terrorized lefthanded pitching in 2013, putting up a .421/.483/.842 (!) line that reads like a series of types against them with eight homers in 87 PA. That compared to .298/.379/.459 in 290 PA against righties. As it happens, the Mets are carrying at least one corner outfielder in 2014 who does not hit lefties.
For what it’s worth, Puello went down to the Dominican this winter and hacked at everything, hitting .200/.252/.261 with 30 strikeouts against five walks in 41 games. I don’t know what to make of it other than a stark reminder that he’s no sure thing.
Dr. Pangloss Says: I still think there’s all-star level talent in here if everything clicks. There’s also a fairly wide spread of outcomes for a guy on the brink of triple-A and the big leagues.
Debbie Downer Says: The best 22-year-old in the Eastern League over the last few years has turned into a big leaguer, even a low-level one. At worst, he’s a bench bat with situational value against lefties.
Projected 2014 Start: AAA Las Vegas
MLB Arrival: 2014