Today’s minor league spotlight will look at the MVP’s of the Binghamton Mets: outfielder Cesar Puello and pitcher Jeff Walters. Puello probably shouldn’t be labeled as an MVP after getting suspended for his connection to Biogenesis, but the team really struggled offensively without him, which in an odd way shows his value.
Puello was omitted from Baseball America’s list of the top-20 prospects in the Eastern League after hitting .326/.403/547 with 16 homers and 21 doubles in 91 games. Part of the basis for omitting him was the suspension, but according to a Baseball America chat on the Eastern League rankings, people within the Mets said that they didn’t consider him a prospect, which is an insane statement. If he’s not a prospect, why have the Mets used a spot on the 40-man roster on him the past two seasons, even after his struggles in 2011 and 2012? That statement is just senseless.
The suspension hurt, as it cost him a chance to play in the postseason and perhaps a September cameo, but Puello’s 2013 season most certainly makes him a prospect, and one could argue makes him the Mets’ top outfield prospect right now, although there is a strong argument for Brandon Nimmo. Puello still has five tools, and his 2013 season will put him in Vegas in 2014 and give him a chance to get to the big leagues sometime next summer.
I would rank Puello no worse than 5th among Mets position player prospects and almost certainly in the top-10 overall. He’ll have a lot to prove coming off his suspension, but his link to Biogenesis doesn’t necessarily mean he was using PEDs during the 2013 season, so there’s reason to think he can pick up where he left off next year.
As for Walters, he beats out Noah Syndergaard as the B-Mets’ pitching MVP mostly because he spent the entire season at AA and Syndergaard didn’t, but also because Walters broke a B-Mets record for 38 saves in a season. In 56 innings, he struck out 60 and walked 16, showing great control and a WHIP a little over 1, which doesn’t just make him a good AA pitcher, but a legitimate prospect.
Walters was rather ordinary in his professional career until 2013, when he came out of nowhere. Walters has been able to increase his velocity during his pro career, and now regularly throws in the mid 90’s, making his fastball a plus pitch. He also has a slider that is at least an average major league pitch.
A plus fastball and a solid slider should be enough for Walters to survive in a major league bullpen. The Mets will almost certainly protect Walters from the rule 5 draft, and he will have an opportunity to make the Mets’ bullpen out of spring training next season. I wouldn’t expect Walters to end up being a closer in the big leagues, but he could a 7th inning set up man, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing for a player the Mets drafted in the 7th round back in 2010.