For as great as Yasiel Puig was in his rookie season, 2014 figured to challenge him in ways he had yet to truly be tested. Would he be able to withstand the rigors of a full season? Or adjust to the pitchers who now had more film on the at-times, wild-swinging outfielder?
To this point, 42 games into the season, the answer to both of those questions and more, has been a resounding yes. Puig is carrying a 14-game hitting streak into Friday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks and has been equally impressive in his patience at the plate.
While Puig is currently working on helping the Dodgers stay afloat until the team finds its stride, J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group reports the 23-year-old shared a lofty goal for the 2014 season with Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire during Spring Training:
Puig said he wanted to be the National League’s Most Valuable Player.
Puig leads the Dodgers with a .324 batting average, 31 RBIs, .416 OBP and a .977 OPS mark. The awe-inspiring outfielder is also on pace to surpass the 36 walks he drew last season in 104 games; already at 19 through 36 games played.
Some of the reason for the uptick in Puig’s stats may be attributed to his attention to detail and intelligence, which McGwire believes Puig doesn’t get recognized for:
I don’t think people give (Puig) credit for how smart he is. They see some of the things that he does, and they assume. But he is one smart individual and I think you’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg right now.”
Puig’s ability to drive runners in has led to manager Don Mattingly changing his Spring Training belief that Puig wasn’t yet a player capable of piling up RBIs, to praising him for his ability to remain calm when batting with runners in scoring position.
In such situations, Puig is hitting .408 with 28 RBIs. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Puig’s batting average rises to .455 and he has 18 RBIs. Puig has done what’s necessary on a personal level to enter into the discussion for NL MVP, however he’ll be hard-pressed to win the award should the Dodgers continue to hover just above .500.
Dodgers Update: Yasiel Puig’s Hitting Streak, Maturity And Bat Flips