Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Yep. Yasiel Puig and polished belong in the same sentence. His plate appearances have suddenly become “must see TV”, especially for the hardcore baseball fan. He’s smacking the heck out of the ball right now, he’s walking at an incredible pace (exceptionally exciting), he has a 15 game hit streak, I mean sure, that normally wouldn’t accurately describe how well he’s hitting the ball, but when you have a streak of 8 games with an extra base hit, plus a 7 game streak of driving in a run, you’re doing something right. Yasiel Puig is dominating right now.
I get it, high BABIP. Everyone has this concern with every player. It seems like one of the most cited stats these days. “Oh, this new kid has a .400 batting average? MUST BE BABIP”. And sure, no one carries around a .380 BABIP throughout their career. This has led to some calling him overrated.
Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton are incredible players, massive talents, but there’s no right fielder i’d rather have on my team than Yasiel Puig. Carlos Gomez, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez and Mike Trout are incredible power-speed combinations, and credit needs to be given where it’s due. But realistically, Puig should (and will) be mentioned in the same category as those players. Steamer has Yasiel pegged for a 29-19 season. And of course, those steal totals are fairly low, mainly because he hasn’t been on first a whole lot this season, but regardless, 19 stolen bases is a bit low for a player of his speed. But who’s to say that he can’t work on that. This guy has went from Pablo Sandoval levels of free swingingness to one of the more difficult outs in baseball in one offseason.
This is a lot of talk about tools. Power and speed are nice, and Puig has boxes of them, but the real discussion is his polish and how well he’s approaching the offensive side of the game now. This is a man with a plan, you don’t just magically improve your walk percentage 3.0% without having some marked improvement in some areas. He’s swinging through less strikes (11.4% SwStr), he’s making contact a lot more (75.1%), he’s swinging at less than half of the pitches he sees (44.9%). With a player of his power, not swinging at everything, but making sure when you do it’s loud contact, is a polished approach if I’ve ever seen one.
Defense matters, right? Of course it does and guess who one of the best defensive right fielders is? You guessed it, the “polished” Yasiel Puig. I found it fascinating to look at Puig’s defensive metrics, you’d be surprised to see how excellent he’s been. In 1101.0 innings at right field, Puig has saved a whopping 12 runs according to DRS. What about his UZR? That lies at a very solid 6.5 runs above average. The guy is money in the OF, there are mental lapses, granted. But who really musters up enough energy to care when he’s doing this.
And I haven’t even talked about his arm:
I love doing a report on Puig today, moreso than other days because last night he hit 600 career plate appearances. That’s a nice, round, even number, one that could be considered a full season, so it’s fun to look at the end result of his first 600 PA’s in the major leagues. Puig’s quadruple slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS): .323/.400/.549/.949. That OPS is 7 points higher than Mike Trout‘s career OPS.
I think there’s something to be said about that slash line for Yasiel Puig, he has gotten there in a multitude of different ways. There was the scorching start he had last June/July, and immediately following that we saw warning signs for the next few months, immediately realizing the league caught up to him, then after an offseason of getting fat, and struggling in meaningless spring training games, there was the early season slump, but shortly after came the
ruthless “disciplined” mashing phase.
A very good player with some holes in his game reworked himself into an elite offensive talent. Being worth 6.3 WAR in 600 AB’s before your 23rd birthday is special. Now, just like last season, the slump will come, and like I said, he wont carry a .380 BABIP forever, but unlike last year he’s way more prepared to deal with it. We wont be dreading his next AB because we know exactly how it’s going to end. Last season we knew, it was a heavy diet of breaking balls and hard stuff in from August to October, and when Puig was off, he was off. There was heavy doubt at times on whether or not he’d even put the ball in play. But here we are, one offseason and 2 months later, and he’s a polished hitter.
Remember all those Jeff Francoeur comparisons? Well:
Jeff Francoeur (4959 PA’s): 6.0 career fWAR
The superlative inducing Yasiel Puig (600 PA’s) : 6.3 fWAR