Dodgers: Yasiel Puig might have finally become underrated

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Jun 18, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig watches from the dugout against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 18, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig watches from the dugout against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /
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Ever since Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene in 2013, there have been some astronomical expectations placed upon him. Although he no longer produces eye-opening stat lines, he is still a very solid player and a big time asset to the Dodgers.

Recently, foxsports.com published an article stating it may be time for the Dodgers to trade Yasiel Puig. Their main argument is that Puig has seen his stat line decrease every season and that he may benefit from a fresh start somewhere else.

While Puig’s numbers have been in decline for a couple of years, it will be trending upward starting this season. After hitting 11 home runs in 2015 and 2016, Puig has already hit 12 home runs this season, and it’s still only June.

Puig is also showing improvement in plate discipline and baserunning. His walk rate is at 9.9%, higher than 8.4% in 2015 and 6.5% last season. He has also stolen nine bases, which are more than the last two seasons combined.

While his average is down a bit at .241, it’s worth noting that his BABIP is the lowest of his career at .257 (MLB Average is around .300). So, with some better luck, it isn’t farfetched that Puig will see his average rise a good amount due to his below-average BABIP.

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The way Puig affects the Dodgers the most is with his stellar defense. Puig ranks 7th overall in Ultimate Zone rating out of all major-leaguers and is 2nd among all right fielders in baseball.

Plays like his diving catch against the Reds on Sunday show the type of impact he makes every game. On that particular play, he covered 20 ft in 2.5 seconds, dove, and made a catch that saved at least one run and then also fired the ball to the infield to prevent the runner from tagging up. Most right fielders would be challenged on that play, so not many of them can challenge Puig.

Puig’s arm also turns many prospective doubles into singles, which may not seem like a big deal, but the chances of a runner scoring from first with a single are slim to none when most runners can score from second base on one.

Speaking of which, base hits into right field against LA do not guarantee a run because Puig is capable of gunning runners out at the plate with his rocket of an arm. Even when he isn’t making a highlight reel outfield assist, the mere threat of Puig’s rifle arm is enough to stop most runners from rounding third and go home.

Over the last week Puig has turned it up a notch, hitting .333 with three home runs so now, rather quietly, is second on the team in home runs and RBI. He also leads the team in stolen bases.

It’s strongly possible that Puig could be on his way to having a 20-20 season (20 HR and 20 SB), while also providing elite defense. Couple that with a base salary of $6.5 million, and Puig is a very cost-friendly asset to the Dodgers.

There are not many 20-20 players in baseball, but the ones that are, most likely make over ten million a season. Puig is not only a bargain but has now become a very underrated player.

Some people can lazily say that he is struggling and a bust and that the Dodgers are capable of upgrading from him, but that couldn’t be further than the truth.

Next: Time to panic on these Dodger players?

While his off the field antics are likely to garner him attention, it’s time everyone paid attention to Yasiel Puig’s all-around game. Stellar defense and a solid bat from the eighth spot for a price tag under $7 million. That is a solid, but underrated, puzzle piece for the Dodgers to possess, and one they shouldn’t be looking to deal away.

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