AA Stuff: Cesar Puello, Jenrry Mejia and OBP

I’ve been on the road, so we’re going to skip the game-by-game stuff to point out three or so things by affiliate that I care about right now.

1. Cesar Puello is not just hitting, he’s walking a little.
b-mets-logoAfter drawing one walk in an 18-game stretch from June 8th through July 7th, Puello has drawn seven free passes in his last 12 games while hitting .395/.491/.581 with seven walks, only eight strikeouts and a .444 BABIP in those dozen contests. Obviously, he cannot run a .444 BABIP in the big leagues, but the 8/7 K/BB sure seems like progress for the 22-year-old. He also had four doubles in his last three games over the weekend in New Britain. Puello is leading the Eastern League in batting average, (.332), fifth in on-base percentage (.401), second in slugging (.571) and tied for fourth in homers (16), and is third in stolen bases (23). More or less, the thing keeping him from AAA was his strike zone control.

I wonder at this point whether the Mets will promote Puello to AAA at all this year. The AA B-Mets are going to the playoffs, and are 11 games up in first while the AAA Las Vegas 51s are 0.5 games behind Tucson. His time in Double-A appears to have been very productive developmentally. More to the point, it looks like his game is still evolving as his recent K/BB shows.

 

2. Jenrry Mejia is not just alive, he’s pitching well. 
Saturday night: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 1 HR. He threw 62% (56 of 90) of his pitches for strikes.

A scout Adam Rubin talked to about Mejia’s outing told him, “Very good,” the scout said. “Plus cutter at 88-90 mph. Fastball velocity was 91-94 mph, which should improve with more innings. The curveball had plus 12-to-6 bend and tilt.”

Just a week ago, I argued that Mejia had never really conquered AA and thus, it was the right level for him developmentally. I also believe that Chris Schwinden and his 6.00 ERA and 65/33 K/BB in 105 AAA innings this year has no business starting a big league game on July 26. There are two good reasons not to call up Rafael Montero for that start either: he would need to be added to the 40-man roster now, entering a winter where he would not other wise have needed to be added and more importantly, AAA hitters are giving him trouble as evidenced by his 4.50 ERA/5.68 RA and 47 hits in 38 innings. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate has plunged from 27.6% in AA to 19.6% in AAA while his walk rate has jumped from 3.8% to 7.7%. There is nothing in there that says, “ready for the big leagues.”

Eliminating Montero and Swinden leaves Mejia vying for the spot in the doubleheader with Jacob deGrom (AAA 6 starts/36 IP: 3.00 ERA/3.00 RA, 18% strikeout rate, 6% walk rate. 48% gb rate). I like deGrom and his power sinker plenty, but when I saw him last, his slider needed lots of work. Considering he started the year in advanced-A, giving him a big league start would be quite a jump for the 25-year-old. Of that quartet, Mejia might be the best prepared for a spot start. That is consistent with saying that Mejia’s development is best served by time in AA.

A quick note for completeness here: Mejia first appeared in a game this year on May 17 for the advanced-A Florida State League team. He made two starts there and then two starts for the GCL team starting on June 29. MLB pitcher rehab assignments are supposed to max out at 30 days for pitchers, so Mejia, if his current rehab is dated to June 29 is just about done with the minors this year unless the Mets spend an option on him now. If they do spend the option, he will have to make the team out of spring training. It’s easier to hide him for a month now in August and then when rosters expand in September to preserve his final option for 2014. I do not know what the right course is with Mejia now, but I’m leaning towards giving him the spot start/keeping him in the big leagues/preserving the option for next year.

 

3. OBP is still (Offensive) Life
The B-Mets are 62-37 and lead the Eastern League in on-base percentage (.351) and runs scored (511). The team has three guys in the top five in the EL in OBP Allan Dykstra (#1 – .462), Josh Rodriguez (#4 – .415) and Puello (#5 – .401). Dykstra at age 26 and Rodriguez at 28 are living out their peak years in AA. They will not be impact big leaguers, but they sure are impact AA guys. Danny Muno, at age 24 is #11 in the EL in on-base percentage at .246/.381/.385 with a ridiculous 65 walks against 71 strikeoust in 90 games.

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