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Daily Dodger in Review: The sole sensation that was Yasiel Puig

January 13, 2014|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Yasiel Puig hit .319 with 19 home runs and 42 RBIs last season.
Yasiel Puig hit .319 with 19 home runs and 42 RBIs last season. (Don Wright / Associated…)

We conclude our annual reviews with the Dodgers’ enigmatic young outfielder, the one and only …

YASIEL PUIG, 23, outfielder

Final 2013 stats: .319, 19 home runs, 42 RBIs, 66 runs, .391 on-base and .534 slugging percentage.

Contract status: Remains under contract for the next five years.

The good: He was second on the team in batting average, runs, stolen bases (11), on-base and slugging percentages, third in home runs and fourth in hits — despite appearing in only 104 games. Tied for first among outfielders (Andre Ethier) with eight assists.

Was remarkably hot to start his career. In his first 145 plate appearances he could do no wrong, batting .407, with a .441 on-base and .659 slugging percentages, capturing the city of Los Angeles and all of baseball.

Excelled at home (.360/.422/.584). Batted first, second and fourth in the lineup. Demonstrated powerful arm and explosive speed. Went 8 for 17 in division series against Atlanta.

Fearless defensively. Was not the least bit intimidated in a major-league clubhouse. Is that rare five-tool player. Sparked great energy as team ignited on playoff run.

The bad: Struggled the final six weeks of the regular season, hitting .235. Batted .227 (5 for 22) in National League Championship Series. Hit .234 with runners in scoring position. Struggled to learn from mistakes.

What’s next: He’s one of four outfielders scheduled to alternate in the three starting positions, but if he gets his talent under control could play more than any of them.

The take: You can’t say he’s not fun to watch, whether waiting for a remarkable or a boneheaded play. He’s a stunning one-man show. If his talent were anymore obvious, he’d be Beyoncé.

The Dodgers termed him “raw” in spring training. That was the camp where he led them with a .517 batting average in preseason games. Vin Scully called him a “wild horse,” if only because you could never really be certain where his amazing talent would take him.

He’d make a stunning laser throw one moment and then overreach and with a mistaken throw to allow runners to advance the next. Thus far, learning from blunders — on the field or behind the wheel — has not been his strong suit.

Puig has not always endeared himself to opponents with his cocky play, whether it is simply flipping a bat or admiring a home run drive that instead actually happens to ricochet off the wall. He struts with supreme confidence.

The Dodgers have to walk a careful line with Puig, guiding him as he hopefully matures without giving him so much freedom they enable his untamed side. His nature is to push things — throws, running the bases, dealing with the media and seemingly off the field activities — an element that makes him unmistakably exciting but at times, perilous.

He’s 23 now, so it’s not like he’s some teenager stepping out into the world for the first time. Yet he is young, quite rich and adjusting to a new culture. If that sounds like an excuse, it’s offered more as simple perspective.

Puig will be the Dodgers’ greatest individual challenge but offers their greatest reward.

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