Yasiel Puig, Bonafide Center Fielder


When we first saw Yasiel Puig‘s cannon arm during his Major League debut in 2013, I think we all knew the Dodgers had something extremely special. A rare talent like Puig only comes around so often in baseball, and I feel lucky to have watched Puig’s young career spark consecutive NL West division titles for the Dodgers. Puig has been one of the integral pieces the Dodgers needed in order to compete with the San Francisco Giants in their division and ultimately top them twice in as many years. The Giants might have a certain M.V.P. catcher named Posey, but the Dodgers have a much more intriguing and exciting player in Puig.

Since I called for Yasiel Puig to play center field eighteen weeks ago, he has since claimed the vast green pasture in center as his own. I don’t want to dwell on the fact that I was right about Puig for too long…okay I’ll rub it in just a bit. After all, I have been wrong many times as well. For example, I had nearly given up on Dee Gordon at the end of last season, and I thought Alex Guerrero would break with the team after Spring Training. The one thing I knew for sure was that Yasiel Puig would become a fantastic center fielder.

Yasiel Puig captured a NL-leading 15 outfield assists during the regular season. He was only one assist behind MLB leader and fellow Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes who had 16. Puig only committed 3 errors over 144 games as well. He has the range, the speed, the athleticism and the unbridled energy to make plays in center field no other current Dodger outfielder can make. There’s no way Joc Pederson or Andre Ethier, or anyone in the entire Dodgers’ organization can make the same type of highlight reel plays in center field that Puig can.

Sure, Puig’s defense could use some refinement. He doesn’t always hit his target with his throws (although they usually are pretty much right on target), and he sometimes fails to hit the cut-off man (even those mistakes he made last season have been lessened this year after he moved to center). Like I have attested before, Puig has the ability to learn and adjust. His progress at the plate and in the field has been nothing short of phenomenal. Of course the base running and sliding is still a glaring concern, but that too should get better with time and more work with Davey Lopes.

The league has learned. You just don’t run on Yasiel Puig. The Dodgers now have two great arms in center and right field with Puig and Kemp. Heck, even Carl Crawford threw out a base runner from left field this season (just don’t expect to see that ever again). It took some discussion, some fuming from Matt Kemp, and a little bit of experimentation, but the Dodgers have finally locked down their best outfield configuration.

St. Louis took advantage of Yasiel Puig’s wild throws in last year’s NLCS (especially in Game 6), but I think they will be hard pressed to run on him now. What a difference a year makes. He’s simply amazing. I hope the Dodgers never fully tame Yasiel, for his spirit should never be broken.