Yasiel Puig is one of the only players on the Dodger’s roster who is either really lovable or hateable depending on the team you support and the views you have on his actions.
When he came on scene back in 2013 he was 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting and 15th in the league wide MVP after hitting 19 home runs at a .319 in over 100 games. This was projected to be something special and would only continue to grow, with his attitude and anger at times, capturing the hearts and eyes of Dodger fans everywhere.
Puig quickly become a hot topic of conversation all around the league with his flare and enthusiasm he plays the game. This would lead to the great Vin Scully naming him “The Wild Horse” after stealing bases, throwing out people from right field with his cannon and stretching singles into risky doubles.
Of course for Puig not all of this would pay off and he would be left stranded and the subject of a lot of anger from Dodger fans and sometimes the then manager Don Mattingly, who would think he was just an immature kid and someone who wasn’t ready for the big leagues when he was just a 22 year old out of Cuba.
The thing that would hold the rookie back in his first year was his strikeouts and mentality at the plate, which could be translated into “hit homeruns at all cost”. Puig ended 22.1% of all plate appearance with strikeouts, about 1 in 4. His AB/K ratio was 3.9, but compensated for this with a 20.1 AB/HR ratio. In simple terms, Puig hit a lot of homeruns at the cost of a lot of strikeouts. Clearly this was the way Yasiel played; he was a flamboyant outfielder with a lot of bling, a lot of swagger and an addictive attitude.
So what does all this have to do with this year?
Well, Yasiel has only had 24 plate appearances but he has already made big strides in improving all the problems he had in his first 3 years in the majors.
As of Monday he has only struck out twice and hit 6 home runs. This means his strikeout to plate appearance ratio is down to 8.3%, he is hitting homeruns at a higher rate and putting the ball in play a lot more.
In this age too, with the advanced measuring of sabermetrical stats and the coaches and scouts around the league taking note of these, this is only a good thing for Yasiel to keep progressing and possibly become one of the best players in the MLB.
Another huge thing about Puig now is his patience when at the plate, waiting for a good pitch to hit and hitting it a long way. He has already pulled out 5 walks in 6 games, just under 1 a game and is running counts up to 4.1 pitches per at bat. Puig’s on base percentage is .500, obviously this isn’t sustainable but he should be able to keep it higher than it has ever been and have one of his best seasons.
Puig has been walking at an average of 8.6% per plate appearance, one of the worst in the majors over his first 3 years and now is up to 20.8% this year after an all time low in 2016, 6.8%. There is clearly something different in his mind about how to approach pitches and see which ones he wants to hit and it is showing for LA and Yasiel Puig.
So what is next for Yasiel is to just stay healthy, a problem that has plagued him in his first 3 years, keep patient and use a mentality that will allow for more compact swings, not always going for a bomb but sometimes to score runners and become a much better situational hitter.