Since being promoted from Double-A in June of 2013, Yasiel Puig has very much evoked a love him or hate him sentiment. He was key in sparking the Los Angeles Dodgers on their historic 42-8 summer run, which vaulted them from the bottom of the National League West standings to the top and ultimately a division title.
However, in the seasons since, Puig’s style of play has worn thin and turned some in the Dodgers fan base against him. With the non-waiver trade deadline less than two weeks away, some have called for Puig to be packaged in a trade to land a marquee starting pitcher. Dodgers controlling owner and chairman Mark Walter doesn’t subscribe to that school of thought.
According to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times, Walter believes Puig is an elite talent who is capable of improving:
I wouldn’t give up on him now,” said Walter, the team’s controlling owner. Walter said his backing of Puig is based not on the player’s marketability, but on how he thinks Puig will develop as a player. “I think he’s just going to be a great player,” Walter said. Walter pointed to a groundout by Puig last week in a home game against the Philadelphia Phillies. “If you watch him, he’s playing hard,” Walter said. “Puig clearly, clearly has incredible potential and talent. And I think he’s got a big heart and wants to play hard. So I think that will show up.”
While Walter believes in Puig, he added he wouldn’t interject should the Dodgers opt to trade the Cuban native, but was unaware if such discussions had been held:
It’d be dumb for me to hire them and tell them what to do,” Walter said. As of last week, Walter said he was unaware of any such conversations. “But, to be fair, I’m not in that room all the time,” he added.
Puig missed 39 games this season due to a strained left hamstring that forced him to the disabled list for the first time in his young career. He hit .279/.380/.465, had two home runs and four RBIs in 11 games prior to being sidelined.
Upon returning Puig hit .579/.619/.895 (11-for-19) with one home run, three doubles and four RBIs through his first five games back. He injected some life in the Dodgers, who went 4-1 over that stretch of games.
There’s since been an expected regression to the mean, though not necessarily for lack of effort. Puig recently reported for early batting practice with Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire. It’s something the 24 year old said he does with regularity, it simply garnered more attention this time around due to it taking place on the Dodger Stadium grass as opposed to the underground batting cages.
As a 24 year old still working to improve, Sunday’s game embodied the highest of highs and lowest of lows for Puig. He struck out in each of his first four at-bats before breaking the game open in a bases loaded situation with a two-run single in the ninth that extended the Dodgers’ lead to 5-0.
Puig is batting .272/.354/.428 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 46 games this season. Over his first two seasons, Puig hit .305/.386/.502 and averaged 17 homers and 55 RBIs.