Though there have been some bumps along the way, Yasiel Puig’s maturity this season has been noticeably improved from last year. Still with the same aggression and enthusiasm, Puig plays a more refined game, particularly in right field.
Part of Puig’s growth has included more discipline at the plate, which has led to him developing into a clutch hitter with runners in scoring position. Puig is batting .397 and has a 1.241 OPS with runners in scoring position. In the same situation with two outs, Puig’s numbers are .379 and 1.376.
Puig’s ability to drive runners in has earned praise from manager Don Mattingly, who has placed his right fielder third in the batting order in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ last 10 games and it appears as though he’ll continue doing so moving forward, according to Lyle Spencer and Michael Lananna of MLB.com:
“I think we like Yasiel, Hanley and Adrian there together,” Mattingly said. “Those three guys being able to drive in runs protects the top of the order.”
With Puig batting third, followed by Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez, Mattingly believes it will force opponents to make a difficult decision with their left-handed pitchers:
Yasiel and Hanley both handle right-handers,” Mattingly said. “So it puts a lot of pressure on how you use your left-handers.”
In the 10 consecutive games Puig has batted third, he’s hit .417 with four doubles and posted a 1.167 OPS. The change came in the final week of May, which was a month that Puig tied a franchise record with 43 hits.
While Mattingly has moved Puig down in the lineup, it doesn’t appear the right fielder will be used to find a long-term solution to the center field situation. Mattingly recently expressed his belief Puig is the best right fielder in the game and thus the team isn’t interested in moving him away from the position.
Following Matt Kemp’s demotion, Andre Ethier has handled the center field duties and there’s yet to be an indication that won’t be the case for the remainder of the season. While Puig has swung the bat well, moving him to third in the lineup won’t make much of a difference if Ramirez and Gonzalez are unable to consistently hit well.
Dodgers Update: Matt Kemp Benched, Carl Crawford Injured