Yasiel Puig is capable of winning multiple MVP Awards, according to Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire. Puig needs to take the next stop forward, said to team president and CEO Stan Kasten.
The expectations Puig faces heading into the 2015 season are arguably unlike any other of his career. No longer just a young player looking to find his footing, Puig is suddenly the unquestioned leader of an outfield that is without Matt Kemp, who was part of the organization for nearly 12 years.
Since debuting with the Dodgers in 2013, Puig has been revered and scrutinized for his flamboyant style of play. Certainly capable of making the highlight reel with regularity, routine plays were at times made more difficult than need be.
While Puig has touched on wanting to be Kobe Bryant and LeBron James of baseball, and overcome the big bad bird that is the St. Louis Cardinals, questions remain as to whether or not he’s focused enough to reach an elite status.
I’ve seen more maturity,” Mota said in Spanish. “I’ve seen more responsibility, more seriousness in what he does, more concentration in his work.” He is also asking more questions, Mota noted.
A more mature Puig could pay dividends for the Dodgers, but the 24-year-old outfielder added he won’t stop celebrating big plays:
If I change that, I’m not me,” he said. “No one will come to watch me. … You can’t compare Latin Americans to Americans. We always try to enjoy the game. We’ll always get excited when we hit home runs or throw someone out.”
Puig’s reaction to hitting a home run drew the ire of San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner and the two exchanged words as Puig crossed home plate during a May game at Dodger Stadium.
Bumgarner and Puig were involved in another dustup, when the left-hander hit Puig with a pitch, this time in September with the NL West division title still up for grabs. Both benches cleared, though there weren’t any ejections and Puig later admitted to reacting to Bumgarner’s comments.
While traditionalists may disagree, it’s more than plausible Puig can emerge as one of baseball’s best players without needing to sacrifice his personality; the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
It wasn’t long ago that Puig himself spoke of winning an MVP Award, however him being benched for Game 4 of the NLDS is more recent. Coming off a season in which his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage all dropped from his rookie year, Puig needs to trust his new-found preparation and let success be his guide.
Dodgers 2015 FanFest