5 Options for Yasiel Puig’s New Year’s Resolution
Los Angeles Dodgers: Yasiel Puig’s 5 Potential New Year’s Resolution
Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene in 2013 for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a first season that earned him runner-up in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Alas, his 2014 status is not concrete so you cannot bank on him repeating his previous success. In an interview yesterday with ESPNLA 710 Radio, General Manager Ned Colletti confirmed that he is comfortable with having a quartet of standout outfielders: “Our intent is to keep our outfielders, and to get them healthy. I expect our OF to be the OF we put together last year.”
The problem this creates for Puig is that he is the low man on the totem pole that is the Dodgers’ outfield. Puig only got as much playing time in 2013 as he did as a result of the injuries to Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford. In fact, Andre Ethier was the only Dodgers outfielder to start more than 116 games last season. Puig’s extra playing time came at the expense of his teammates. The best case scenario for the Dodgers would be the worst case scenario for Puig, that is, if his biggest competitors for playing time were all healthy.
So, what does Puig need to do to ensure that he gets as much playing time as possible? I will attempt to answer just this with my slideshow of five New Year’s resolutions that can help him earn a spot in the starting lineup and prove to manager Don Mattingly that he is a necessary fixture in the batting order.
1. Keep Out of Trouble
Staying out of trouble with his coaches and with the law seems simple enough, but we have to keep in mind that Puig is only 23-years old. He’s just a young, dumb kid who just got paid a whole bunch of money and could easily get into trouble. We have already seen some of this with Puig having to deal with reckless driving charges while he was still with the AA affiliate in Tennessee as well as an (overstated) issue in the clubhouse about being late. Things can happen, so, if Puig wants to remain in good favor with the organization, he needs to keep his head on straight and remain mature.
2. Be Young
Okay, okay. I know that I just finished talking about how Puig needs to be mature and not show his young age, but one of the biggest things that made the outfielder’s burst into the MLB so successful was his energetic play. Often being deemed as “reckless” and “wild,” Puig’s play was nothing more than pure enthusiasm and passion for the game. This fervor sparked a failing Dodgers team and was one of the key, contributing factors to their great turnaround. With the health of his fellow outfielders being in question combining with the fact that each of them is at least 29 years old already, Puig’s reckless abandon and energy could very well earn him a regular starting spot.
3. Work on Defense
Fans who saw Puig’s plays on the nightly recap of the top plays probably remember his diving catches and monster throws. Nonetheless, those of us who watched him play every day remember that his play in the outfield was less than 100% certain. Yes, he made some dumb decisions, but that is not really what I am concerned about. That Puig has the speed to get to just about any ball hides the facts that he is not great at reading the flight of the ball and his catching ability is shaky. He was not horrible, by any means, but Puig could definitely stand to work on this in the offseason, preventing Mattingly from having any reason to be worried about using him in the field. An increased defensive performance would also ensure a substitute does not need to be used as a defensive replacement late in games when Puig’s presence could be greatly missed in a later at bat.
4. Stay Patient at the Plate
Many Puig critics give the Cuban a hard time for his high strikeout total, but the truth of the matter is that Puig’s second half was much better than his first in terms of strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB). In June and July, his K/BB was 4.25 while August and September saw a much improved performance as he only struck out 1.92 times per every walk. Puig began to see more pitches and wait patiently and if he can continue to do this, it will make it harder for Mattingly to keep him out of the lineup.
5. Swing at the First Pitch
I understand that I just finished talking about being more patient at the plate, but the statistics just do not lie in this case. If Puig sees a first pitch that is even remotely decent, he needs to swing away. Last season, Puig’s first pitch batting average got to be so ridiculous, opposing starting pitchers often ended up giving him a free ball just to avoid the embarrassment of being added to the statistic. The ones who thought they could get the best of him with a quick strike often became one of many battered pitchers who watched Puig hit .551 on first pitches. If the Cuban sensation continues to hone in on the first pitch and send it flying, he could very well find himself as a regular in the starting lineup.
That does it for the slideshow. Let me know which of these resolutions will be most important for Puig in 2014, or, if you think something else will be more important, feel free to share that in the comments as well.