Entering his second season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014, but his first time being with the team on Opening Day, Yasiel Puig faced plenty of high expectations. While it came with growing pains, his rookie season was largely a success and validated the Dodgers’ gamble of signing him to a seven-year, $42 million contract.
After starting out of the gate slowly, Puig began to hit his stride in late-April and into March. He strung together a career-best 16-game hitting streak, with eight of the games being of the multi-hit variety. Puig was one of several Dodgers to receive a thank you from Clayton Kershaw in his MVP and Cy Young acceptance speech on Saturday:
To Yasiel Puig, thank you for showing me things on a baseball field that I’ve never seen before.”
The statement drew laughter, perhaps with the idea Kershaw was also including some of Puig’s misfortunes on the field. However, he laid that to rest as he heaped more praise on Puig:
The most amazing talent I’ve ever seen.”
While Puig found his footing in the early stages of the season, he didn’t exactly finish it on a high note. His ability to play center field was instrumental in Dodgers manager Don Mattingly settling on an outfield alignment that was best for the team and satisfied Matt Kemp, but Puig endured a month-long slump at the plate in August.
September saw better results with the bat for Puig as he hit .284/.376/.432 and drove in 10 runs. Then the postseason rolled around and Puig scuttled once more. He finished 3-for-12 in the NLDS with eight strikeouts in the four games and a stretch of seven-consecutive strikeouts, which was one shy of the all-time postseason record.
With the Dodgers facing elimination in Game 4, Puig found himself benched in favor of Andre Ethier and only made an appearance as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning. Next season comes with plenty of opportunity for Puig, as Kemp and Hanley Ramirez are no longer on the team, meaning he’ll be expected to fill the void on the right side of the plate.
Though he may still be young, Puig is one of the game’s most talented players and that should bode well for the Dodgers.