This has been quite the renaissance season for Dodgers’ right fielder Yasiel Puig. He took the world by storm after his call-up in 2013 and earned an All-Star selection the following summer. With an absolute cannon of an arm patrolling right field, raw power, and sick wheels, he seemed to be on the fast track to stardom.
But then it was like he ran head-first into the right field wall the last couple years. Lots of different things have hindered his development into a professional. Immaturity being at the forefront. All the clashing with coaches and teammates, too much hot-dogging on the field, and temper tantrums were creating the wrong type of headlines. The uber-hyped Puig seemed destined to be at least trade bait or even a bust.
Being on a team friendly seven-year $42 million contract, which is set to expire after next season, it behooved the Dodgers to continue trying to get the most out of the talented young man. Fast forward to this season.
Playing in 143 out of the team’s 150 games so far, Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts has given Puig every chance to succeed in 2017. When a coach or manager shows this type of confidence in a player, the player is more at ease and more likely to perform well.
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Even though the majority of his plate appearances (329/540, 61%) have come in the bottom third (7th-9th) of the batting order, Puig has shown way more patience at the dish this season. Posting career bests in BB%, up big time to 11.3%, compared to 6.5% from last year; and whiffing less with a 17.8 K%, down from 20.1% from last year also.
Puig has played like a changed man. Anybody who has watched his at-bats this season can tell you that he is laying off the outside breaking ball more than ever, which has been his kryptonite throughout his career. That clearly shows growth in his approach.
This new more patient approach has deserved a promotion to the middle of the order. We’ve documented the struggles of the number 5 hitter in the lineup before, but Doc has seemingly found a solution. Doc has rewarded Puig by moving him up to the middle third (4th-6th) of the order in 15 out of the 18 games in September. So far, good for a decent .271 average.
While protecting rookie slugger Cody Bellinger in the 5th spot, Puig has hit 0.297 in September. This type of production in the lineup needs more RBI opportunities. Puig has slammed a career-high 26 homers this season. But, because of being in the lower part of the order most of the time, has only driven in 69 runs.
A legit power threat like Puig needs to become a fixture in the five-spot. He should no longer be in the bottom third of the batting order. Having another power threat going into the postseason can only give the Dodgers a better chance to win it all.
For Puig, he will be in a position to continue redeeming himself on the biggest stage, the playoffs. He loves the limelight and what better way to complete the revival of his career than to have a big hand in helping bring back a World Series title to LA?