Dodgers Look to Yasiel Puig for Offensive Spark

The Yasiel Puig era begins now for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Mired in a disappointing beginning to the 2013 season, the organization is looking to the 22-year-old outfield prospect with the hope of catching lightning in a bottle. A Cuban defector, Puig has just 63 games of North American professional experience under his belt, but he’s made the most of his time in the minor leagues . Well, at least in terms of his results at the plate. At Double-A this season, the young hitter produced a .313 batting average; 23 of his 46 hits going for extra bases.

Puig’s recent hot streak — a .355 average, six extra base hits, four steals and a 5-5 walk-to-strikeout rate in his last 10 games — likely helped seal the deal once injuries proved too much for the Dodgers’ 25-man roster. Trips to the trainer’s room have depleted the outfield depth on the roster — and the loss of impact hitters such as Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez has taken the thump out of the lineup. The Cuban should offer significant help.

I ranked Puig as the fourth-best prospect in the Dodgers’ system at the season’s start, but I considered him for the first overall ranking. At the time though, I said he was much “an enigma” with just 23 games of experience in the minors and not enough amateur or international background from his time in Cuba for me to jump on the bandwagon. He narrowly made my Top 100 prospects list — checking in at No. 99 — but was well below fellow 2012 signee and Cuban Jorge Soler of the Cubs, whom I saw more of last season. Baseball America ranked Puig second overall in the Dodgers’ system, while Baseball Prospectus had him first overall. Keith Law, of ESPN.com, had him third. In other words, we were all a little unsure of what to expect from the prospect but we knew he had talent.

Our very own Mike Newman saw Puig in the flesh a few times earlier this season and he came away with a mixed bag of emotions after watching him play. Mike recently wrote: “But is Puig ready? From a baseball standpoint, yes. From a maturity standpoint, perhaps not.” He noted the young player’s poor body language, lack of consistent hustle/laziness and his propensity for showing up umpires all cast an unnecessary shadow on Puig’s otherwise impressive resume and tools. During a controversial article published recently, Mike pointed to some of the things Puig needed to improve upon to improve his game.

My first impression of Yasiel Puig was he’s the “next generation” Yoenis Cespedes. Puig is bigger, faster, stronger and younger than the Athletics slugger. However he profiles with the same glaring weakness Cespedes did when scouting him in Arizona: breaking ball recognition.

Throughout the game, Puig flailed wildly at sliders which led to an early strikeout, as well as a two-strike count in his second plate appearance. Eventually, he gave up on the pitch and sat “dead red” fastball.

Mike later mentioned Puig’s lack of patience, as well as some rough areas in the field and on the base paths. In preparation for writing this article, I pulled up video on the Dodgers rookie from mid-May. In his first at bat of the game against the Cincinnati Reds’ Double-A affiliate, Puig turned around a first-pitch fastball for an absolute rocket of a single back up the middle. He was then thrown out trying to steal second base on a close play to end the inning. In his second at bat, he took a four-pitch walk and stole second base on the first pitch to the next batter — almost as if to prove himself. He later scored on a single.

In the top of the sixth inning, Puig fell behind 0-2 after swinging badly at a soft breaking ball. The Double-A pitcher — who also was a fringe prospect — then threw a mistake fastball that got too much of the plate and, despite being hit off the end of the bat, was deposited over the left field fence on another line drive. He finished off the extra-inning game with a fly-ball out, an intentional walk and a single. It was a solid showing by the man-child who physically reminds me of Albert Pujols when he was playing in the Midwest League (A-ball) as a little-known, 20-year-old prospect.

I expect Puig to have a strong start to his MLB career. He’ s flashed four or five tools, the ball makes a special sound off his bat and he’s physically mature. The big question for the young player will be his emotional maturity level and how well he’ll handle true adversity for the first time — and under such an intense spotlight in a baseball savvy marketplace.

One thing is for certain, it will be an entertaining show.



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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
3 years 2 months ago

Screw it, I’ll be “That guy.”

Cuba is technically part of North America, right?

BenRevereDoesSteroids
Member
BenRevereDoesSteroids
3 years 2 months ago

If Japan is in Asia, and the UK is in Europe, I think that Cuba should be considered part of North America. Even though sometimes you hear people say “North America and the Carribean.”

nate
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

ok, what about israel; asia? africa? europe? antarctica?

BenRevereDoesSteroids
Member
BenRevereDoesSteroids
3 years 2 months ago

Israel is not an island, so nobody cares. Thats right. All that fighting and nobody even really cares.

Dave S
Guest
Dave S
3 years 2 months ago

Asia. It’s considered part of the Middle East. Antarctica would be cool, though.

Dave S
Guest
Dave S
3 years 2 months ago

You’re correct, sir

MrKnowNothing
Guest
MrKnowNothing
3 years 2 months ago

i don’t think any of those are in north america

Natty Bunto
Guest
Natty Bunto
3 years 2 months ago

I wonder how many of those 15 AA walks were unintentinional? Didn’t he draw a total of 1 in spring training?

atoms
Guest
atoms
3 years 2 months ago

Well, he was also hitting over .500 in spring training, so why bother walking if you’re hitting it that well? Plate discipline hasn’t been an issue with him in the minors this year, as he had a decent (though not spectacular) 9% walk rate.

BenRevereDoesSteroids
Member
BenRevereDoesSteroids
3 years 2 months ago

Sure, he may be really good at baseball. But he…

1. Thinks that Magic Johnson has cooties.
2. Listens to 2 hours of Radio Disney every day.
3. Threw a temper tantrum at Wal-Mart when his mother didn’t let him have a candy bar.
4. Is an active Cub Scout.
5. Has an increased risk of injury because he refuses to wear his knee pads while riding a bike.

Its all about the maturity issues.

matt
Guest
matt
3 years 2 months ago

where the fuck did you pull this shit from? i hope your not talking about Yasiel Puig because im not finding anything

cass
Guest
cass
3 years 2 months ago

I imagine he’s taking a humrous jab at Mike Newman’s report of maturity issues.

scraps
Guest
scraps
3 years 2 months ago

Apprently every person needs to append (LOL!!!) to a humorous post, no matter how obvious.

KCDaveInLA
Guest
KCDaveInLA
3 years 2 months ago

Come on, you know that’s ridiculous! There are no Wal-Marts in Cuba.

Steve Holt
Guest
Steve Holt
3 years 2 months ago

Wal-Marts are all over North America!!

Richie
Guest
Richie
3 years 2 months ago

Why does the various prospect rankings of Puig mean you’re “all” unsure of what to expect from him? Collectively, OK (maybe; not sure 1-4 connotes all that much variance), but if BP had him top-ranked, that sounds like they at least are pretty sure of him.

Blockhead
Member
Blockhead
3 years 2 months ago

Thanks for an objective piece on Puig after that trash last week.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
3 years 2 months ago

you are reading scouting reports – they are innately subjective. one guy sees a solid regular, another guy sees a 4th OF. puig wouldnt be the first player to fail due to lack of character, and mr newman simply pointed out his concerns while ultimately praising his tools and talent level. would a simple love-in piece have pleased you more?? i for one prefer to read about a prospect’s flaws – character or otherwise – as well as his talents. too many prospects have praise heaped on them until the hype becomes more than they are, and then we all stand surprised and disappointed when a guy settles in as a platoon bat or a utility infielder.

drew
Guest
drew
3 years 2 months ago

yeah what kevin said.

you suck, mike newman rules!

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
3 years 2 months ago

From last night’s game. A couple of nice throws from the OF, seems to have very good speed. I suspect the pitchers will catch up with him quickly, can he hit ML pitching??

that whizkid
Guest
that whizkid
3 years 2 months ago

This kid is truly something that is seriously special.. he is pure raw and extremely gifted. physical,mental and fielding recognition.. he def reminds me of Bo Jackson with forearms that scream Frank Thomas Power if not greater…. we mite get to witness one of the best young hitters in our lifetime if im on point… and i put that with Trout, Cabrera, Harper, and YOGI (Cespedes) <— u like fellas…loll YOGI seems most fitting for Yoenis.. anyway back to PUIG.. Yasiel is one heck of a Phoenom… opening 2/4 with a warning track GUNNNN to GEOFA ( Game-Ending-Out-Field-Assist)<— wonder if theres an actual category for this statistic? or if I can make that happen?

Bobby Bonilla
Guest
Bobby Bonilla
3 years 2 months ago

Body is more advanced than his age, personality issues and can’t hit a breaking ball?

Delmon Young.

I know Dodger fans, you need something to look forward to but lets be realistic here.

Larry
Guest
Larry
3 years 2 months ago

Too easy to dismiss Puig as a tools first hulk whose skills may not catch up to freakish athletic ability.

Looks like he can be a Vlad type of player though worst case he could be Ruben Rivera.

Iron
Guest
Iron
3 years 2 months ago

I think it’s a little early to start defining worst case scenarios. But, fine. Best case, he is the best player ever to play the game in the history of the world. Worst case he gets hit by a bus on the way to the stadium today.

Joe
Guest
Joe
3 years 2 months ago

Nice. Best case I win the lottery. Worst case I get robbed. Thanks negative Nancy. I know this comment adds no value, but at least I know that and chose to willingly waste my time other than simply go on a diatribe because of a bad day.

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