Entering his third season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, expectations are as high as they’ve been for Yasiel Puig. Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire believes he’s capable of winning multiple MVP Awards and general manager Farhan Zaidi sees Gold Glove potential in the electric outfielder.
Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten said two weeks ago he was pleased with Puig’s progression thus far, but believes he’s capable of more and he expects to see progress.
Perhaps as a sign he’s aware of the expectations that have been set, Puig reported early for Spring Training — arriving with pitchers and catchers as opposed to waiting util the Feb. 25 report date for position players. As the Dodgers await Puig taking the next step forward, he set a lofty goal for his career, via Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times:
Puig said he would like to be to baseball what Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are to basketball. “I want to be like them one day,” he said in Spanish.
Puig went on to state he wants to be among the players who will take the mantle from retired New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter:
He went on to talk about the baseball players he considers worthy of replacing the now-retired Derek Jeter as the face of their sport: Clayton Kershaw, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano and Mike Trout. “I want to be there,” he said.
Last season, Puig stated he hopes to one day be viewed in a similar light as Jeter, soon after there was more speculation Puig was a distraction to the team. While Puig and others with the Dodgers have touched on career goals, the 24 year old is very much focused on getting past the St. Louis Cardinals, who have knocked the Dodgers out of the postseason in consecutive seasons.
Puig also paid his respects to Clayton Kershaw, who spoke highly of his teammate during his NL MVP and Cy Young Award acceptance speech. Puig was named to his first All-Star Game last season and finished the year batting .296/.382/.480 with 16 home runs and 69 RBIs — he declined from his rookie season in each of the mentioned categories with the exception of RBIs.
While plenty of pressure lies on his shoulders, it would seem as though there isn’t anywhere to go but up for Puig when considering he was benched for Game 4 of the NLDS.
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