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Dodgers: Yasiel Puig Vs. Alex Verdugo – A Different Kind of Energy

A look at two different spark plugs for the Dodgers.

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

In December 2018, the Los Angeles Dodgers made an off season splash trading away Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, Kyle Farmer, and the love him or hate him, Yasiel Puig. The move, which was initially thought to free up outfield space for Bryce Harper, ended up paving the way for A.J. Pollock to take over as the everyday centerfielder for the Dodgers. Benefitting from increased playing time due to an injury to Pollock, Alex Verdugo has shined. While Pollock for Puig looked like a pretty even swap, Verdugo for Puig has been an upgrade.

Puig’s Dodger Tenure

MILWUAKEE, WI – OCTOBER 20: Yasiel Puig #66 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run in the sixth inning of Game 7 of the NLCS against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on Saturday, October, 20, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Yasiel Puig burst onto the Major League Baseball scene in June of 2013. He lit the baseball world on fire in his first week hitting 4 home runs and knocking in 10 runs over his first 5 games. Puig went on to hit .319 with 19 home runs and 42 RBIs over the remainder of the 2013 season.

Dubbed the “Wild Horse” by Vin Scully for his high energy, cannon of an arm, reckless abandon on the base paths and overall feral behavior, Yasiel Puig was an instant fan favorite. Over the subsequent 6 years, that love wavered some as stories of tardiness, multiple off-field antics, and teammate strife highlighted his inability to recreate the potential everyone saw in freshman season.

Puig with the Reds

Since being traded to the “Wild Horse” embracing Cincinnati Reds, Puig has been outspoken about previously not working hard because it wasn’t a contract year and about working harder than ever now, because it is. Despite the increased effort and his love for the color red, Puig has struggled. Heading into Saturday’s game, he had a WAR of -.01 and he was slashing .203/.251/.361 with 7 home runs and 23 RBIs.

Verdugo Road to the Majors

Alex Verdugo’s rise to the majors hasn’t been as flashy.  Over the past few years he’s been ranked as a top prospect multiple times, he’s merited a couple non-roster invites to Spring Training, and has been a part of the September roster expansions the past two years. This year with the outfield log-jam finally somewhat cleared, Verdugo made the opening day roster. Initially he was platooning left field with Joc Pederson and Chris Taylor, but following an elbow infection that landed A.J. Pollock on the Injured List, Verdugo has seen his playing time grow and he’s making the most of it.

Verdugo’s 2019 Start

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MAY 08: Alex Verdugo #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates his RBI single to take a 7-4 lead over the Atlanta Braves during the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium on May 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Like Puig, Verdugo’s energy and enthusiasm for the game has quickly made him a fan favorite (so much so, they even sang Happy Birthday to him), but the similarities stop there.  Heading into Saturday’s game he had a WAR of 2.0 and was slashing .328/.373/.534 with 4 home runs and 20 RBI’s from 116 at-bats.

To put it plainly, Verdugo is a batsmith. He has a veteran approach at the plate, a calm composure that allows him to slow the game down. As a result, he has just 13 strike outs this year.

Additionally, he can hit right-handed and left-handed pitching well, so far he has hit RHP to a tune of .316 and LHP to .351. Also, while his bat has some pop, he hits to get on base and is currently 3rd on the team in OBP. Even when Verdugo is not getting on base though, he’s making productive outs. Last week, in a pitchers dual between Hyun-Jin Ryu and Stephen Strasburg, he hit a ball to the right side to move Cody Bellinger to 3rd. Bellinger would be hit in by a sacrifice fly the very next at-bat. While the Dodgers went on to win 6-0, that could’ve been the only run scored.

Puig Vs. Verdugo

Puig gave fans energy, smiles, and big moments. Alex Verdugo is giving fans the same energy, the same smile, and consistency. Puig could pump up a crowd, but would frustrate them trying to stretch a good hit into miraculous one. Verdugo can pump up a crowd and keep them elevated by maturely extending an inning. Puig played for his glory.  Verdugo plays for the team.

Puig was the outfielder fans wanted. Verdugo is the outfielder fans need; the outfielder that the Dodgers deserve.

Written by Jason McClure

Technically a Dodgers bandwagon fan. At 5 years old, I decided they were my favorite team after hearing they won the World Series on my mom’s car radio in 1988. My father (technically my stepfather) watered that seed, teaching me the game and introducing me to the beauty of Dodger Stadium. We got to know each other and bonded over games. Even when we couldn’t get along during my teenage years, we could come together over Vin Scully’s voice and a game. Dodger baseball is, and will always be, so much more than just a game.

13 Comments

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  1. Puig was NOT the player this fan wanted – ever – and Verdugo is a much better fit for Dodger Blue.

    • Hey Jim! Yeah I was generalizing s bit because a lot of folks loved him and were bummed to see him go. I agree with you though, Verdugo is a better fit on this team. Thank you for reading!

  2. Yep Verdugo had been HUGE for LA. Big hits, Productive at bats. And potential Gold Glove fielding. I think he is close. But the biggest thing is like the article states–consistancy. Solid game and team player. He keeps the inning going, too. 2 outs does not seem to affect his approach. Great article. Hits the nail on the head.

    • Hey Wayne thanks for reading. The crazy thing about Verdugo is that as mature as he seems, he’s just 23!! Imagine his approach and confidence in another 2-3 years! Thanks again!

  3. I admit that I am a fan of Yasiel Puig : he was fun to watch, spent loads of time in the community, and brought a free-wheeling type of play to the stadium. Unfortunately, there were times when he was not totally centered on the game, and he wore his emotions on his sleeve. Mr. Verdugo, in many ways, is not that much different from Puig except in two aspects : he appears to be more focused, and is a better situational hitter. Go Blue!!!

    • Hey Lou! I too was a fan, but often a frustrated one. His potential is endless, but he still doesn’t seem mature enough to do anything about it. I hope he can figure it out, it’s be great to see him become great. Thanks for reading!

      • Jason, I agree with you totally. Puig is certainly a lot of fun to watch. I hope he does eventually reach the goals he sets for himself. Verdugo had two doubles yesterday, and is fast establishing himself as a dependable, clutch player. Go Blue!!!

  4. Verdugo brings an intensity that does not include over the top drama. He presents as measured and always focused on what’s in the best interest of the team. Whereas, Puig can be all over the map seemingly aiming for personal glory that would sometimes benefit the team. Admittedly, I was bummed when Puig was traded, but it was primarily based on missing the unabashed showmanship that Puig brings to the game. As it is, Bellinger has been absolutely amazing in Puig’s position. And Verdugo has been a consistent, reliable, player who brings a subtle swag to the Dodgers that says, ” We (not I) got this.”

    • Hi Barbara! Thank you for reading. Belli has filled the defensive void easily and offensively he’s way beyond Puig. I wish him all the best, but glad he’s someone elses heart break.

  5. I’m not sure the Dodgers brain-trust truely knows how to use Verdugo. They play him, then bench him. I think he is adept at the “situational hitting” that other Dodgers e.g. Pederson, Taylor, Hernandez, Muncy haven’t embraced. With two strikes on them, these guys still swing for the fences. I know Pederson Only starts/plays when it is a RHP. Hernandez, after starting off the season hitting well, is now an “automatic-out.” Taylor has improved, but is still clueless. All these guys I have mentioned are great when they hit a homerun, but basically its “feast or famine” for these guys.

    • Robin, thanks for reading! I think the Dodgers are doing better this year than the past couple at situational hitting. I see them bunting on the defensive shift and hitting a lot of sacrifice flies (maybe they are just failed home run attempts though), but regardless I hear what you are saying. Verdugo has one of the best OPS on the team and yet regularly bats middle of the order or below. I say try him at leadoff!

  6. The years Puig was with the Dodgers I definitely supported him even when it was a challenge. I think the Dodgers gave Puig more than enough time to mature and be a team player. After the Reds trade and his comments about not putting forth his best effort with the Dodgers I am done. He was not worth my loyalty.

    • Hi Shelly, thanks for reading. I feel the same way, it stung! It put context into the frustrations we’ve felt over the years. Wish him the best, but glad the organization has moved on!

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