Dodgers: Yasiel Puig’s 2018 Season Will Be Even Bigger

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 25: Yasiel Puig /

The 2017 season was good for Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig. Hard work on the field and in between his ears led to a breakout that many had been hoping for since he burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2013.

While almost being written-off by the front office, teammates, and fans, Puig has proved us all wrong and shown us the investment can yield high returns. 2018 can be a year where he not only makes it back to the All-Star game, wins a Gold Glove, but, he might even contend for National League MVP honors.

Glove don’t lie

The one constant throughout the roller-coaster career of Puig has been his defense. Owning many great highlight catches because of his speed and athleticism, only a few have had the guts to test the notorious cannon on Puig. Maybe this is the year he won’t get snubbed from the Rawlings Gold Glove award. I won’t mention the belief from my fellow site contributors that Puig won’t win one because he uses a Wilson brand glove. But, he did have a better fielding percentage and committed fewer errors than the other two finalists for right field in the National League in 2017.

Secured a home

Puig has played his way into a permanent spot on the team. Yes, there are options to replace him (stud rookie Alex Verdugo) if he is moved for pitching. But, I can’t see the front office trading him at this point. He’s the only fixture in the outfield going into 2018 as it remains to be seen who exactly will man the other two spots. After spending a lot of the 2017 season at the bottom of the batting lineup, Manager Dave Roberts moved Puig up to the middle of the order, and I think he is there to stay.

100 RBIs very possible

Whether Puig bats 5th or 6th, all that power is a waste in the bottom third of the lineup, and Roberts knows this. The front office has not added another big bat (yet?). Which means they are confident the offense can remain among the league’s best in its current state. Consistently batting Puig in the middle of the order gives the team a more potent offense, thus improving their chances to win on a daily basis. With a potential batting order of Taylor, Seager, JT, Bellinger in front of Puig, how can he not drive in over 100 runs in 2018?

More from LA Dodgers News

35 to 40 homer power

A key statistic I always look at is batting average on balls in play (BABIP) which is a measure of luck for a batter; a neutral clip is roughly .290-.300. Faster players (like Puig) are expected to have a higher BABIP because they’ll beat out more throws than the average player. Puig had some bad luck last season; his BABIP was only .274, the worst in his young career. Check this out:

2013: 19 HR, .383 BABIP in 432 plate appearances

2014: 16 HR, .356 BABIP in 640 plate appearances

2015: 11 HR, .296 BABIP in 311 plate appearances

2016: 11 HR, .306 BABIP in 368 plate appearances

2017: 28 HR, .274 BABIP in 570 plate appearances

While taking into account how he improved his batting eye in 2017 and figures to keep growing in that area, I expect an increase in homers from 2017 with just neutral luck, to, say 35? A look at his chiseled physique and he can luck himself into 40 homers without question. Why else can he have a monster 2018?

The fabled contract year

Puig is in the final year of his 7-year/ $42 million contract he signed when he came from Cuba to play for the Dodgers. What better motivation to perform than to have the ability to secure a huge contract that can set you up for the rest of your life? Putting up new career highs in batting this season can help him secure a deal of maybe 6-7 years, worth anywhere from $12-20 million a year possibly. A big-time payday for a player who many believed was on the verge of being an overall bust. Of course, a lot of this hinges on his continued progress to mature as a man and ballplayer.

Next: Who is the Dodgers' missing piece?

It’s prime time

Many don’t realize that Puig just turned 27 years old, and is barely entering his prime. Already a freak athlete with immense strength and speed, combining that peak physical maturity along with his continued mental growth can only add up to something more significant than he has shown so far. Perhaps the biggest thing is Puig plays for a coaching staff that has shown they have a niche for getting the most out of their players. I think he is barely scratching the surface of his potential, and in no way was 2017 a fluke. If he posts 35 HR and 100 RBIs along with superb defense, 2018 NL MVP consideration isn’t out of the question. Look for this season to be the real break out for Yasiel Puig.