Utility man Nick Punto came to the Dodgers in the mega-trade with the Boston Red Sox along with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford and starting pitcher Josh Beckett last summer. He came in last season and hit .286 in 22 games , mostly playing second and third base.
Regular Season Grade: B
Punto ended up playing a lot more than expected for the Dodgers this season due to injuries. The 36-year-old started 71 games, splitting time at shortstop, third base and second base. Injuries to Hanley Ramirez and ineffectiveness by the Dodgers’ younger shortstops allowed Punto to become the everyday shortstop when Ramirez was out. Punto filled in admirably, finishing the season batting .255 with two home runs and 21 RBI in 116 games.
The switch-hitting utility player began the season on a tear, hitting well over .300 in the first two months of the season; however, a .186 average in June brought down his average to .261 to start July. Punto hovered around that average for the rest of the season. The strong start to the season helped the Dodgers stay afloat in the early months before the team went on their run to first place.
Filling in around the infield, Punto provided solid defense all year at three positions. He took over a shortstop position that he hadn’t played much in the past few seasons and had just three errors in over 300 innings. On the season, Punto had just 8 errors in over 600 innings.
Playoff Grade: C
Punto made the postseason roster as a backup infielder in his first postseason since he won the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011. He only appeared in one game during the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves as a defensive replacement at shortstop in Game 3 while Ramirez dealt with a fractured rib.
In the NLCS, Punto played in five of six games due to Ramirez’s rib injury. Punto started Game 2 of the series and filled in defensively in every game but Game 6. Punto filled in well and hit .333 in the series; however, he will mostly be remembered for being picked off of second base in the seventh inning of a 4-2 game. Punto hit a pinch-hit double to bring up the top of the order to try and close the deficit. Cardinals’ pitcher Carlos Martinez caught Punto off-guard and picked him off for the second out of the inning.
Overall Grade: B
The 36-year-old did a solid job playing wherever the team needed him this season. Punto played a lot more than expected and provided the Dodgers with above-average defense and enough hits to earn his time. The utility man was a huge contributor in the Dodgers’ success by holding down positions when players were injured.
Most blamed Punto for the Game 4 loss following his miscue, but the Dodgers didn’t manage to hit in the other innings so it’s pretty unfair to blame him for the loss. Punto was originally a throw-in from the Red Sox but ended up being much more than that this season.
Punto is a free agent and nothing has been said about the Dodgers’ intentions of possibly bringing him back next season but his 2013 may have warranted a return.
ICYMI: The Mets could be targeting two of the Dodgers high-priced outfielders this winter.