The San Francisco Giants have unofficially readopted the familiar role of underdog in the NL West, a division on the brink of becoming one of the best in baseball. The arch rival Los Angeles Dodgers are the hands-down favorite, but Giants catcher Buster Posey remains one of the best all-around players in the league.
Dodgers’ phenom Yasiel Puig busted onto the scene last season, posting a .925 OPS with 19 home runs and 42 RBI in 432 plate appearances. He was the main reason for the Dodgers’ big-time turnaround after a terrible start. Puig recorded one of the best rookie seasons in the history of modern day baseball in 2013, but he isn’t the best player in the NL West.
Puig acquired as many reckless driving charges in 2013 as Posey has World Series rings. The Dodgers’ world class talent is virtually unstoppable, even at 110 mph. Erratic off the field behavior doesn’t classify Puig as a cancer in the clubhouse, but it reveals a candid brand of selfishness that doesn’t correspond to a championship mindset.
Puig melted under the bright lights in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals last season, striking out 10 times in 22 official at-bats. As a rookie, Posey faced somewhat similar offensive struggles in his first LCS, but he supplied the Giants with strong leadership behind the plate to help shut down a Philadelphia Phillies team that ranked second in runs scored (772) in 2010. Posey racked up six hits, including a home run, in 21 plate appearances during the Fall Classic that season, proving himself as one of the most irreplaceable players in baseball.
There’s no doubt that Puig is an incredible talent, but he noticeably lacks the type of leadership that separates great players from champions. At 23-years-old, Puig has time to develop into more than a highlight reel.
The Dodgers enter the 2014 season with enormous expectations largely because of Puig. Los Angeles hasn’t won a World Series title since 1988 but could be on the verge of making a serious push for championship glory. After all, the Dodgers look fantastic on paper.
The Giants have been here before. Nobody is charting them as preseason favorites to reclaim the NL West and stun the baseball world to win their third title in five seasons. Why would anybody pick the Giants to upend the Puig-injected Dodgers in 2014, though? Los Angeles seemingly owns a deeper pitching staff and a more potent lineup. They’re seemingly better in every facet of the game, but they don’t have Posey.
The 2012 NL MVP reported that he’s added 10 pounds of muscle over the offseason at the Giants’ annual fan-fest. He’s ready for the heavyweight fight otherwise known as a 162-game baseball season. After a down season riddled with fatigue, Posey is on the brink of another star-studded performance. He’s the most valuable player in the NL West and the reason why the Giants will always be contenders.