Whichever way you view it, the Los Angeles Dodgers have either four or five outfielders vying for three spots. As a mini controversy has erupted over left field, which recently has carried over into center with Matt Kemp now appearing to be the odd man out.
One of the outfielders that has managed to avoid outfield carousel is Yasiel Puig, who has appeared in all but six games this season. Puig was benched for arriving late on the day of the Dodgers’ home opener and has missed games due to various bumps and bruises he’s accumulated through his aggressive style of play.
Prior to the Dodgers game with the Cincinnati Reds on Monday, Mattingly, who has praised Puig for his play this season, offered perhaps his highest praise of Puig to date, via Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times:
We feel like right now, Yasiel is the best right fielder in baseball,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “This guy dominates right field.”
Despite the fact the center field position is currently unsettled, Mattingly didn’t seem interested in looking to Puig to be the answer:
If we move Yasiel to center, then we’ve weakened ourselves in right and he has to make an adjustment to center and we don’t know if he’s going to be the best center fielder. We feel like we have the best right fielder in baseball right now.”
Puig leads the Dodgers in batting average (.345), on-base percentage (.440), OPS (1.055), RBIs (38) and hits (61). He’s also yet to commit an error this season and has shown improvement in hitting the cutoff man in appropriate situations.
In Monday’s win over the Philadelphia Phillies, Puig managed to cut a ball off in right-center that prevented the tying run from scoring in the eighth inning. Last week, Puig made a diving catch that any other right fielder in MLB likely doesn’t come up with.
The Dodgers clearly have a cornerstone in right field for years to come and it’s now up to Mattingly and the organization to settle on the appropriate pieces in center and left field.
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