Salt Lake Bees outfielder Cesar Puello refuses to let past "mistakes" haunt him because he doesn't leave time for the past.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Puello, 26, is built like a strong safety at 6-foot-2 and a sculpted 220 pounds. He still displays flashes of five-tool potential with his ability to field, throw, run, hit and hit for power.
His raw skills made him a noteworthy prospect almost immediately after his professional debut at age 17 in 2008. However, Puello's career hit a crossroads in 2013 when he got suspended as a result of the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal that, most notably, brought down superstar Alex Rodriguez.
"You've just got to move on, and you've got to learn from your mistakes," the soft-spoken Puello said this week at Smith's Ballpark. "Always, I'm moving to the next page. In life, you have to be mentally strong. That way, you're going forward. You cannot be sitting around thinking about something you cannot control. You've got to learn from it and move on."
Puello, a member of the New York Mets' farm system at the time, accepted a 50-game suspension that ended what had been a breakthrough season. He released a statement through his lawyers following the suspension accepting responsibility for having made "certain mistakes during the 2012 season."
Despite the suspension, he still had enough at-bats to win the Eastern League batting and slugging titles in 2013. He batted .326 with 16 home runs and 73 RBIs in 91 games that season. However, the suspension — coupled with the final option year of his minor-league contract with the Mets in 2014 — put his performance under a microscope following the suspension.
Puello saw his home runs and RBIs cut by more than half and his batting average drop nearly 70 points the following season when he got moved up to Triple-A for the first time. In 2015, a stress fracture in his back kept him off the field for all but one Gulf Coast League game before he was released in August.
Last season, he signed with the New York Yankees as a minor-league free agent and spent the entire season with their Triple-A affiliate where his numbers improved, but his playing time was limited. After signing with the Rangers as a free agent this past offseason, Puello got off to a pedestrian start and was released on June 1.
If Puello feels any pressure with the Angels organization, he doesn't let on. A daily reader of the Bible who has been known to read scripture at his locker in the clubhouse, his focus remains on his faith, the task at hand and opportunities ahead.
"Baseball is the same thing everywhere you go," Puello said. "You've just got to keep your mindset, keep up the good work, and when you come to the field and do your best, the results will be there. The older you get, you get more mature and you've just got to keep [working] and that's how you get better day by day."
He has enjoyed a resurgence since joining the Bees. In his first 20 games, he has hit .366 with three home runs, nine doubles, 14 RBIs, six stolen bases, .418 on-base percentage and .585 slugging percentage. In his second game with the Bees at Smith's Ballpark, Puello hit a walk-off RBI single to beat the Las Vegas 51s, who are back in town for a weekend series.
"I'm really happy that he's able to get back to playing the way he used to play," said Las Vegas manager Pedro Lopez, who managed Puello at three levels in the Mets system from 2010 to 2013. "Unfortunately, he got hurt and that set him back. He's always been a kid with a lot of potential. You know, sky is the limit. Hopefully being here in a new organization, being healthy and having a good year will get him a promotion to the big leagues. I think that he can play up there, and I think it's just a matter of time."
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