The Los Angeles Dodgers will play a pair of intrasquad games beginning on Sunday and set to bat third for the team Zack Greinke drafted is Yasiel Puig. However, don’t expect to see Puig in that spot in the batting order come the regular season as manager Don Mattingly already expressed his desire to have the 23-year-old leadoff.
Mattingly initially stated the switch would help balance out the lineup by alternating right-handed and left-handed batters, but Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com reports the change may be a result of other factors as well:
Mattingly said he still intends to bat Puig leadoff most of the time because “he’s dynamic, and quite honestly, he hasn’t proven himself to be an RBI guy. You need to be calm in those situations to hit in the middle. You watch Adrian [Gonzalez] and Hanley [Ramirez], they’re calm and that’s probably experience. Up top, he’ll get more at-bats. I think he likes batting there.
To be a successful leadoff hitter, Puig would not only need to improve his discipline at the plate and on the base paths, but perhaps his conditioning as well. Puig checked in at Camelback Ranch weighing 251 pounds, up from the 225 mark he finished at in 2013. Though the Dodgers aren’t overly concerned, Gurnick reports it’s something Mattingly and the club will monitor:
Honestly, I’m not that concerned,” said Mattingly. I’ve been in a lot of camps, you watch everybody. He ended up at 225 and maybe that was too light. Anything with Yasiel is a big deal. We understand that. I don’t think there’s a huge alarm going off. You just pay attention.
While appearing in 104 games last season, Puig collected 42 RBI and had a .391 on-base percentage. There were moments when he was able to come through with a timely, run-scoring hit, but Mattingly’s assessment that the energetic outfielder is at times too anxious is correct. However, by moving Puig to the top of the lineup, it brings a different set of pressure and responsibilities that the dynamic outfielder will need to properly handle.
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