We’ll do our second-to-last group of position players: corner outfielders. I divided the players in this group in tiers to make their rankings easier to follow. Basically, it’s Cesar Puello, some lottery ticket youngsters and some organizational depth.
Tier 1 – Everyday Players and Soon?
1. Cesar Puello
Tier 2 – We have questions
2. Ivan Wilson
3. Jared King
4. Cory Vaughn
Tier 3 – Young and Interesting, but Far Away
5. Wuilmer Becerra
6. Ricardo Cespedes
Tier 4 – Org Guys
7. Dustin Lawley
8. Travis Taijeron
9. Joe Tuschak
10. Gilbert Gomez
1. At age 22, Puello was the best player in the Eastern League for the first 91 games of the season until he accepted a 50-game punishment for a connection to Biogenesis. He has the skills to be a Major League rightfielder who hits for power, steals a few bases and plays solid defense and do so soon. He hit .326/.403/.547 with 39 extra-base hits, 28 walks and 82 strikeouts while going 24-for-31 stealing bases. Oh, sure, his .391 BABIP is wildly unsustainable, but he had finally smoothed out his swing to leverage his strength into hitting for power: his .221 isolated slugging was a minor league career-high. His walk rate of 7.4% was triple his 2.8% walk rate in 2012 in the Florida State League. Sure, his increased patience was connected to his better power numbers. 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.
He will start 2014 in AAA in Las Vegas and should make his MLB debut in 2014.
2. Wilson, the Mets third round pick this year from high school in Louisiana, hit .219/.321/.300 with 8 extra-base hits, 22 walks and an alarming 65 strikeouts in 47 games in his professional debut in the GCL. He’s big, strong and supposed to a plus runner. From Baseball America’s Draft Report: “Wilson also has big raw power that shows up most in batting practice. Scouts see a sound swing and set-up in the batter’s box, as well as present strength, so they haven’t figured out why his power doesn’t play in games. His athleticism and solid-average arm help him profile as a potential right fielder…” He’s still a long way away, and might be headed back to extended spring training and then Kingsport or Brooklyn in 2013.
3. The Mets drafted King in the fifth round in 2013 out of Kansas State. In his professional debut with Brooklyn, he showed strike zone control and gap power: .266/.365/.347 with 15 doubles, 35 walks and 49 strikeouts in 63 games. That’s a reasonable 18.6% strikeout rate and a very strong 13.3% walk rate. King played all but four of his games in 2013 in left field. To profile there, he will need to demonstrate home-run pop, otherwise he will be a resident of tweenerville/4th outfielder land. He will begin 2014 on a full-season team either in Savannah or St. Lucie.
4. I think Vaughn is a platoon outfielder and bench bat. He hit .267/.346/.424 in his 71 games in double-A with 20 extra-base knocks, 24 walks and 78 strikeouts in his age 24 season. In the last three years, through the full-season minor league levels, he has bashed .296/.401/.528 in 409 PA against lefties and .231/.335/.383 in 1047 PA against righties.He’ll be a big leaguer, but it will be in a limited role. He should break camp in 2014 with Las Vegas.
Young and Interesting
5. Becerra was hit in the face by a baseball in his first go-around in the GCL in 2012, and the 6’4 kid hit .243/.351/.295 in round two with 20 walks against 60 strikeouts in 52 games.
When he saw him early in 2013, Jeff Moore wrote: Becerra is already built like a grown man, … He has quick hands and generates good bat speed, an indicator of future power. He demonstrated a patient approach at the plate, doing a nice job of selecting out a pitch he could drive instead of just swinging at the first fastball in the strike zone. On breaking pitches, there were some inconsistencies …There is sill a lot of work to be done with Becerra, but the talent was evident and he stood out among the other players his age.
6. The Mets signed Cespedes to a $750,000 contract in August when he turned 16. Baseball America wrote, “6-foot-2 lefty with a good set-up, a nice swing and a line-drive, gap-to-gap approach. Cespedes doesn’t have the athleticism or raw power that Rosario had, but he has a cleaner stroke while showing solid speed and arm strength.” If he doesn’t have top line athleticism, he’s probably not a centerfielder, although I probably could have left him on that list for a little while longer.
7. Lawley had a big year, earning the FSL MVP Award and the Mets’ Sterling Award for St. Lucie as part of a .260/.313/.512 year with 33 doubles and 25 homers in 122 games at age 24. Now the bad news: none of the guys who have led the FSL in homers at age 24 and higher in the last eight years have played in the big leagues. Lawley is strong, aggressive and will follow a very aberrant career path if he’s to become a useful big leaguer. He will likely start 2014 in AA.
8. Taijeron earned a mid-season promotion from St. Lucie to Binghamton where he continued to do what he’s done in the system for the last three years: hit for power and strike out. His final counting totals over 120 games are strong: 38 doubles, 23 homers to go along with 131 whiffs. He ran a 29.5% strikeout percentage in double-A in 2013 and he’s been above 25% nearly his entire minor league career except for a the first half of 2013 when he repeated the Florida State League. His deep load means he must decide early on every offering, leaving him exposed against good fastballs and chasing breaking balls. He too will likely start 2014 in AA.
9. Tuschak, the Mets’ 6th round pick in 2011, has a nice, smooth swing. In a return engagement in the Appalachian League at age 20 in 2013, he hit .271/.313/.376. He will not be young, rather at age 21, he will be age appropriate, if he breaks camp in the South Atlantic League with Savannah.
10. Gomez hit .216/.309/.262 in 115 games with St. Lucie in his age 21 season. He played 66 games in center, 25 in right, and 16 in left, but I did not see the speed, reads or closing speed to think he’s an everyday centerfielder.