With his speed, range, and cannon of an arm, Yasiel Puig very much has the makeup of a Major-League center fielder. However, his overall inexperience, susceptibility to taking bad routes and mental miscues have resulted in Puig making his home in right field.
However, that changed last season as the Los Angeles Dodgers were searching for an answer in center field, which led to manager Don Mattingly calling on Puig. While he’s expected to be moved back to right field for the 2015 season, it didn’t stop MLB Network from ranking Puig third in their “Top 10 Center Fielders Right Now.”
Included in the table below are The Shredder’s complete rankings, plus former Major-Leaguer Darrly Hamilton’s and host Brian Kenny’s selections:
|The Shredder||Darryl Hamilton||Brian Kenny|
|1st||Andrew McCutchen||Andrew McCutchen||Mike Trout|
|2nd||Mike Trout||Mike Trout||Andrew McCutchen|
|3rd||Yasiel Puig||Carlos Gomez||Yasiel Puig|
|4th||Carlos Gomez||Yasiel Puig||Carlos Gomez|
|5th||Adam Jones||Adam Jones||Adam Jones|
|6th||Jacob Ellsbury||Jacoby Ellsbury||Jacoby Ellsbury|
|7th||Adam Eaton||Adam Eaton||Lorenzo Cain|
|8th||A.J. Pollock||Lorenzo Cain||A.J. Pollock|
|9th||Lorenzo Cain||Marcell Ozuna||Adam Eaton|
|10th||Denard Span||Denard Span||Leonys Martín|
Although it may not be Puig’s position moving forward, Hamilton believes it suits him well:
I think he can. He’s almost like a center fielder playing right field his first two years because he likes to be in control, he likes to take advantage of any situation and do it himself. He doesn’t like other guys doing it so that’s a center fielder. I like his chances playing center field, I think he’ll have more confidence and I think he knows he’ll be in charge when he’s in center field. That will be a plus for the Dodgers.”
As for Puig’s offense, Hamilton believes his success at the plate is tied to confidence that will come with potentially playing center field:
I think we understand he’s a streaky player and we get that. We were spoiled his first year. I mean he was unbelievable his first year so we assumed that was going to happen year after year. It hasn’t happened so far, but he’s had his moments. I think once he has confidence knowing he’ll be the everyday center fielder, it will get a lot better. He’ll relax a little bit more and he’ll go out there and play a lot better.”
Puig posted a 5.4 WAR last season, which was good for fifth among National League outfielders. However, he was stronger in terms of metrics when playing right field compared to center. Assuming Joc Pederson wins the starting job in Spring Training, the experiment of using Puig as a center fielder may have ended in 2014.
MLB Network also compiled a list for shortstops of which Jimmy Rollins did not make. However, Rollins came in 10th on Bill Ripken’s and Mike Petriello’s personal lists, and eighth in Kenny’s rankings. Of note, The Shredder did rank Hanley Ramirez eighth overall.