Puello Harnessing The Tools

Binghamton Mets outfielder Cesar Puello is a promising young player, but has been riddled with injuries which have hurt his development in his young career. But in 2013, Puello is feeling great and ready to take the next step.

Blessed with great talent, speed, defensive ability, strength, and a sweet swing, there is very little that Cesar Puello cannot do on the baseball field. However, he has been a victim to both inconsistency and injury throughout his still young career.

Fortunately, there is no harder worker, and no more determined player according to Puello's coaches, and at 22 years old, there is plenty of time for the Dominican born outfielder to improve into the player many think he can be.

The first thing anyone will notice while watching Cesar Puello is his aggressive style of play. Every grounder, every pop fly, Puello will be sprinting to first. Every half inning, Puello will be hustling to and from the dugout. Every flyball near the wall, Puello will show no mercy. He will go after that ball with reckless abandon for his body.

In fact, many, including Binghamton manager Pedro Lopez, attribute Puello's injury history not with problems with his physique or mechanics, but with his all-out nature.

"He plays hard…and injuries are something that you can't avoid," Lopez thought. "They happen, and they are going to come when they're going to come.

"It's not something that he's doing [wrong] or something that he shouldn't be doing -- whenever you get a ballplayer out there who goes 100 percent every day [and] plays the game right -- injuries will happen."

Puello says that this style has been his trademark from a very young age.

"I have always played hard, and when I signed, that was the attitude they saw in me," Puello said through the help of a translator. "After that, [they saw] the tools and me getting better. What I always have to keep in mind is play hard, play the right way, and [things] will always work."

As for his potential, Lopez and Puello's hitting coach Luis Natera believe that he has the ceiling comparable to the top prospects in the game.

"I think if he stays healthy, he's got all the tools to play in the big leagues, pretty soon actually. He's got a good arm, he's a good outfielder, he's got good speed, and he's strong. He's got a good, strong frame. And he's a good kid, a hard worker," Natera lauded.

"God knows [is his ceiling]," Lopez said even more optimistically. "We're looking at him as a five-tool player. We're looking to him as an everyday player in the big leagues, but before that, there are a lot of things he needs to work on; plate discipline and so forth. Only time will tell what kind of player he turns out, but we expect a lot."

As Lopez said, there is much work ahead for Puello if he is to reach his lofty ceiling. First and foremost, he must limit the injuries and stay on the field. After all, he will not improve by sitting on the bench, as has happened in the past.

"Just stay healthy, go out there on a daily basis," Lopez said. "We'll try to get him 400-plus at-bats and if he does that, hopefully he develops himself into a good ballplayer and in not too long we can see him in the big leagues."

In order to stay on the field, Puello is not willing to limit his aggressiveness, though he is working on playing smarter.

"When you play aggressive, there will always be something going on," Puello admitted. "But what we can control is just play aggressive but also smart."

In addition to improving his durability, Puello is hard at work to improve some minor problems with his swing.

"In Spring Training, he got his bat too low and we just did a couple changes," Natera pointed out. "We moved his hands higher by his head, and that's working for him right now, and we'll just keep working on it and getting it better."

A hitter getting his hands too low is a common problem, especially among younger players. When a player's hands are low, the bat head will drop before reaching the hitting zone. This will cause the player's swing to become long, and he will be either late, or swing under the ball, creating a lot of pop-ups and lazy fly balls.

By raising up Puello's hands, as Natera explained, he will be shorter to the ball, and he will stay on top up the pitch, creating solid line drives.

"I'm working on being on top of the ball," Puello admitted, "...also becoming better with pitch recognition, and being on time."

"Like every hitter at this level, he needs to recognize offspeed pitches better and stay on the fastball," Natera added.

But Natera was confident that Puello is in the right place to learn.

"I think this league is going to help him a lot because he's going to see a lot [more] offspeed pitches, so it's a good league for him to learn to recognize pitches and take them."

Another step in Puello's progression is his power development. At 6-foot-2 and about 200 pounds, Puello is a big strong guy, and most scouts agree that he has the potential to develop well above average power. However, in 402 games in the minors since 2008, Puello had hit just 22 home runs prior to hitting three home runs in his past four games.

Last year with high-A Pt. St. Lucie, he hit just four home runs in 66 games, and had hit one in his first 81 at-bats this year. Puello's manager, however, was not, and is not concerned.

"Power is the last thing that's going to develop," Lopez said earlier this week. "The main thing right now is for him to learn the strike zone, and make sure he gets good pitches to hit, and the rest will come."

The adjustments have definitely worked thus far in 2013, as Puello had a 14-game hitting streak snapped on Thursday. This is an improvement over his numbers over the last few years, especially impressive considering Double-A is the highest he has played.

But Puello is not concerned with the level. To him, it is the same game no matter where he is.

"Every time you have confidence, and think positive, it's the same ball everywhere you go," Puello thought. "The only tool you can control is having a mature mind because in the game, you make a decision in less than a second. The only thing you control is to work hard and good results will come out of that."


The Cardinal Nation Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nBlessed with great talent, speed, defensive ability, strength, and a sweet swing, there is very little that Cesar Puello cannot do on the baseball field. However, he has been a victim to both inconsistency and injury throughout his still young career.
\r\n
\r\nFortunately, there is no harder worker, and no more determined player according to Puello's coaches, and at 22 years old, there is plenty of time for the Dominican born outfielder to improve into the player many think he can be.
\r\n
\r\nThe first thing anyone will notice while watching Cesar Puello is his aggressive style of play. Every grounder, every pop fly, Puello will be sprinting to first. Every half inning, Puello will be hustling to and from the dugout. Every flyball near the wall, Puello will show no mercy. He will go after that ball with reckless abandon for his body.
\r\n
\r\nIn fact, many, including Binghamton manager Pedro Lopez, attribute Puello's injury history not with problems with his physique or mechanics, but with his all-out nature.
\r\n
\r\n\"He plays hard…and injuries are something that you can't avoid,\" Lopez thought. \"They happen, and they are going to come when they're going to come.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's not something that he's doing [wrong] or something that he shouldn't be doing -- whenever you get a ballplayer out there who goes 100 percent every day [and] plays the game right -- injuries will happen.\"
\r\n
\r\nPuello says that this style has been his trademark from a very young age.
\r\n
\r\n\"I have always played hard, and when I signed, that was the attitude they saw in me,\" Puello said through the help of a translator. \"After that, [they saw] the tools and me getting better. What I always have to keep in mind is play hard, play the right way, and [things] will always work.\"
\r\n
\r\nAs for his potential, Lopez and Puello's hitting coach Luis Natera believe that he has the ceiling comparable to the top prospects in the game.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think if he stays healthy, he's got all the tools to play in the big leagues, pretty soon actually. He's got a good arm, he's a good outfielder, he's got good speed, and he's strong. He's got a good, strong frame. And he's a good kid, a hard worker,\" Natera lauded.
\r\n
\r\n\"God knows [is his ceiling],\" Lopez said even more optimistically. \"We're looking at him as a five-tool player. We're looking to him as an everyday player in the big leagues, but before that, there are a lot of things he needs to work on; plate discipline and so forth. Only time will tell what kind of player he turns out, but we expect a lot.\"
\r\n
\r\nAs Lopez said, there is much work ahead for Puello if he is to reach his lofty ceiling. First and foremost, he must limit the injuries and stay on the field. After all, he will not improve by sitting on the bench, as has happened in the past.
\r\n
\r\n\"Just stay healthy, go out there on a daily basis,\" Lopez said. \"We'll try to get him 400-plus at-bats and if he does that, hopefully he develops himself into a good ballplayer and in not too long we can see him in the big leagues.\"
\r\n
\r\nIn order to stay on the field, Puello is not willing to limit his aggressiveness, though he is working on playing smarter.
\r\n
\r\n\"When you play aggressive, there will always be something going on,\" Puello admitted. \"But what we can control is just play aggressive but also smart.\"
\r\n
\r\nIn addition to improving his durability, Puello is hard at work to improve some minor problems with his swing.
\r\n
\r\n\"In Spring Training, he got his bat too low and we just did a couple changes,\" Natera pointed out. \"We moved his hands higher by his head, and that's working for him right now, and we'll just keep working on it and getting it better.\"
\r\n
\r\nA hitter getting his hands too low is a common problem, especially among younger players. When a player's hands are low, the bat head will drop before reaching the hitting zone. This will cause the player's swing to become long, and he will be either late, or swing under the ball, creating a lot of pop-ups and lazy fly balls.
\r\n
\r\nBy raising up Puello's hands, as Natera explained, he will be shorter to the ball, and he will stay on top up the pitch, creating solid line drives.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm working on being on top of the ball,\" Puello admitted, \"...also becoming better with pitch recognition, and being on time.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Like every hitter at this level, he needs to recognize offspeed pitches better and stay on the fastball,\" Natera added.
\r\n
\r\nBut Natera was confident that Puello is in the right place to learn.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think this league is going to help him a lot because he's going to see a lot [more] offspeed pitches, so it's a good league for him to learn to recognize pitches and take them.\"
\r\n
\r\nAnother step in Puello's progression is his power development. At 6-foot-2 and about 200 pounds, Puello is a big strong guy, and most scouts agree that he has the potential to develop well above average power. However, in 402 games in the minors since 2008, Puello had hit just 22 home runs prior to hitting three home runs in his past four games.
\r\n
\r\nLast year with high-A Pt. St. Lucie, he hit just four home runs in 66 games, and had hit one in his first 81 at-bats this year. Puello's manager, however, was not, and is not concerned.
\r\n
\r\n\"Power is the last thing that's going to develop,\" Lopez said earlier this week. \"The main thing right now is for him to learn the strike zone, and make sure he gets good pitches to hit, and the rest will come.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe adjustments have definitely worked thus far in 2013, as Puello had a 14-game hitting streak snapped on Thursday. This is an improvement over his numbers over the last few years, especially impressive considering Double-A is the highest he has played.
\r\n
\r\nBut Puello is not concerned with the level. To him, it is the same game no matter where he is.
\r\n
\r\n\"Every time you have confidence, and think positive, it's the same ball everywhere you go,\" Puello thought. \"The only tool you can control is having a mature mind because in the game, you make a decision in less than a second. The only thing you control is to work hard and good results will come out of that.\"
\r\n
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