After exploding onto the scene with the Los Angeles Dodgers in June of 2013, much was expected of Yasiel Puig in the 2014 season. One year after batting an eye-opening .517/.500/.828 with 11 RBIs in Spring Training, Puig hit a lowly .167/.173/.229 with just four RBIs in his second go-around in the Cactus League.
Puig then went hitless in the Dodgers’ first regular-season game and was just 5-for-20 before stepping foot inside Dodger Stadium. Puig’s home debut was delayed by one game as he arrived late for Opening Day at Chavez Ravine and was scratched from the lineup.
Puig’s tardiness immediately led to talk he had yet to mature and suspicions he would be a distraction for the Dodgers in 2014. Instead, Puig was an integral player for the Dodgers and showed notable improvement with his plate discipline.
By May 27, Puig had what wound up being a season-high .445 OBP with a 1.060 OPS; he also had a 16-game hitting streak in May. However, Puig then cooled considerably in June, showed signs of life in July before struggling again in August.
Along with seeing a drop in his batting average as the season wore on, Puig also tended to struggle on the basepaths. He was picked off first base on multiple occasions and ran into not one, but two triple plays.
For as much criticism as Puig may have faced throughout the year, his ability to play center field was instrumental in manager Don Mattingly finding a solution to the crowded outfield. By moving Puig to center, Mattingly was able to place Matt Kemp in right field, where he was more comfortable than left.
The realigned outfield helped propel the Dodgers to a second consecutive NL West title and date with the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Division Series. Unfortunately for Puig and the Dodgers, it came with little offensive production from the outfielder. Puig went 2-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored in Game 1, then had just one hit over the next three games.
Puig at one point struck out in seven straight at-bats before ending it with a triple in Game 3, though it was to no avail as the Dodgers lost the game. Puig was then benched in Game 4 and only made an appearance as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning of the elimination loss.
While Puig had success in the early stages of the season, it wasn’t without his name being tied to matters off the field. In late April, Los Angeles Magazine’s Jessy Katz wrote a detailed account of the outfielder’s defection from Cuba.
Puig’s only comments on the matter came in a statement in which he said he was focused on helping the Dodgers win and the attention on Puig’s escape eventually subsided. On a related note, Puig has a lawsuit filed against him that’s scheduled to go to trial in November 2015.
Next Page: Puig’s 2014 Highlight And 2015 Outlook