By: Brian Mangan
Many have wondered what happened to Cesar Puello, a one-time sweetheart Mets prospect who stalled in Triple-A last year after a suspension for his involvement in 2013’s Biogenesis scandal.
Puello suspension cut short a breakout campaign in Double-A Binghamton, where he had batted a huge .326/.377/.547 over 331 at bats, finally seeming to capitalize on years of promise. Puello had been ranked by Baseball America as high as the #3 prospect in the Mets system three years prior based on his overabundance of physical tools. (Baseball America)
Last year, however, Puello struggled badly in his return from suspension, hitting only .252 over 318 sporadic at bats as he was buried on the bench in Triple-A Las Vegas. Was it rust? Was it related to performance enhancing drugs?
When asked at the Queens Baseball Convention about Puello’s stalled development in Triple-A, Wally Backman first laughed it off with a “no comment,” which got a big chuckle from the crowd well-acquainted with the frustrations of watching Puello’s career prospects rise and fall.
Ultimately, he praised Puello’s tools but explained that Puello had a lot of work to do still in the minor leagues:
“He’s a big strong kid that, you look at him, he’s a specimen, he’s so strong. He hits the ball so far in batting practice and he’s got a 65 arm. Cesar needs a lot of work still in my opinion, defensively, throwing to the right bases. He’s got to learn to hit the good fastball inside and he’s got to lay off and stop chasing the breaking pitch.”
Despite the heaping of praise, however, Backman said that, “Cesar has farther to go than anyone we have talked about [at QBC].”
As for this season, Puello has yet to play in a single game, stalled on the disabled list with a “stress reaction” in his back which was detected in early April. Puello, who is on the 40-man roster, has been earning major league service time and being paid the major league minimum salary ever since. As far as I can tell, there has been no update on his condition since then.
Nonetheless, when the tools are present, there is always reason to hope:
He may already have been surpassed by the likes of Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto on the Mets depth chart, but a player with his physical talents will get many chances. So, for now, the jury remains out on Puello, whose tantalizing tools and relatively young age (he will be playing 2015 at age 24) make it too early to give up on him.