The afternoon of August 1st was a whirlwind of emotions for Dodger fans, as the trade deadline wrapped up for the team. Some fans were excited, while some were perplexed. Some clamored for the front office to do more and some wished the front office would have spent less. But one action rang loud, yet somewhat unclear, throughout the fan base and that was the demotion of Yasiel Puig to AAA. The resulting tidal wave of stories rolling through from “Where in the World is Yasiel Puig?” to “Snapchat-gate” did Puig no favors in regard to the image he was portraying to both fans and the organization. The climax of everything was a growing group of reporters who speculated whether or not the Dodgers would even call him up during September. They did, and in a very small sample size, he hasn’t let them down.
Puig spent the month of August with the Oklahoma City Dodgers, who just won the PCL title on August 12th and will compete for the AAA championship. All Puig did in OKC, well besides snapchat, was hit the ball. Puig hit .348 with a .994 OPS in 69 at-bats for OKC, smacking 4 home runs. In addition to hitting, Puig did his best to work on the image he was portraying, as well as his often questioned work ethic. Though nobody is privy to the private conversations between the front office and Puig prior to his demotion, Puig has done everything the Dodgers asked of him when he went to OKC by all accounts.
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“The conversations we had with him at the beginning of August really resonated with him,” Dodgers General Manager Andrew Friedman told Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports. “I think there’s been a very conscious effort to listen to what was said, and apply it to his daily work.” In the same piece, Friedman quoted that Bill Haselman, the manager of OKC, also had great reports on Puig.
The Dodgers placed Puig on revocable trade waivers in August, which nearly every team does with nearly every player as a means to gauge interest. Many read a little too far into this, thinking it was a sure sign that the Dodgers were trading Puig imminently. Though he was claimed by the Brewers, among others, a trade never came to fruition and, with the work he’s been said to have put in, the Dodgers called him back up on September 2nd. In limited work, Puig has raked. In 19 plate appearances, 3 of Puig’s 5 hits have left the yard, he has more walks (4) than strikeouts (2) and an even 1.000 OPS. All of his power has come versus lefties.
Puig’s bat would be a strong benefit to the Dodgers playoff lineup, especially against left-handers. The Dodgers have not done well against lefties but that story has already been told. Puig has driven all 3 of his homers against lefties, and has had a strong track record of success against lefties in his Major League career. The biggest difference for Puig in his career when he’s facing lefties is his patience. His strikeout rate is 3.4% lower versus lefties, which directly increases his walk rate by 3.4%. Though he doesn’t have a drastic platoon split, he does fare ever-so-slightly better against lefties, partly because of his patience.
Even if this becomes just a showcase for an offseason trade, Puig could help the Dodgers in the near-term and potentially build more trade value, or equity amongst his teammates if he inevitably remains on the team. His value is currently near its lowest. If he continues to produce, the Dodgers now have a player with positive, tangible value to dangle in the offseason or situate their outfield around. In order increase his overall versatility, the front office has been playing Puig in left field, a position he has very little professional experience playing. Though playing in left might be a waste of Puig’s cannon-arm, Puig has shown he can make the reads necessary to succeed in left. Puig also has experience in center, so having another outfielder that could potentially play all three positions would increase Dave Roberts’ flexibility in the postseason and Puig’s offseason value.
With the amount of insane talent that Puig has shown, if he could get his consistency under control and maintain the work ethic that is expected of Major Leaguers, he would be a welcome addition to any baseball club. Ideally, a healthy and productive Puig helps mitigate the issues the Dodgers have against lefties during the stretch and helps strengthen the Dodgers roster as they press for the promised land. Once the winter comes around, the conversations regarding his trade will inevitably come back to a heed, and that will become a conversation for another day.