Is It Too Soon to Give Up on Yasiel Puig?
He's coming back.
In 19 games at Oklahoma City, Puig hit .348/.400/.594 with 4 homers, 12 runs scored, and 12 RBI. Clearly, his talent level is such that AAA pitching really holds no challenge for him. Of course, Major League pitching has been a different story for him over the last few years.
Prior to being sent down, Puig had batted .260/.320/.386 with just 7 home runs and a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 95, which means he was a below-average run producer. He walked in just 5.9% of his plate appearances, a career low, and was worth just 0.5 fWAR in 81 games with the Dodgers.
It's getting harder to remember the player who was worth 4.1 fWAR in his rookie season (in which he played just 104 games) and 5.4 fWAR in his sophomore year. His slugging percentage has fallen every year he's been in the Majors, as has his isolated power.
Clearly, the Dodgers were trying to send a message, and when the team added Josh Reddick at the deadline, they had the ability to move Puig off the 25-man roster.
Team officials said they wanted Puig to do more to make sure his body was physically prepared to play baseball everyday, in an effort to avoid injuries, and to be consistent with pregame work that would help him maintain his swing mechanics and have a better understanding of how an opposing pitcher might try to approach him on a given night.
It is interesting that after a brutal first half of the season, Puig had started to see many of his numbers improve in the second half. He spent three weeks on the disabled list with a hamstring strain in June but was playing better just before he was sent down.
Are they All-Star caliber numbers? No, but they do show it's possible there is a productive player in there somewhere.
Puig's biggest problem this year has not been his typical bugaboo: the slider away. Instead, it is the fastball that he has struggled with, as pitchers learned to bust him inside with heaters.
Puig has not shown the ability to adjust to that pitch. Here are his numbers against fastballs in each of his four Major League seasons.
His slugging percentage and isolated power against fastballs, the pitches he should be doing the most damage against, are at career lows.
It's not unusual for a hitter to have trouble with sliders and breaking pitches from right-handed pitchers, but they are expected to be able to handle big league fastballs.
The Dodgers tried to trade Puig before the August 1 deadline but couldn't. But they exposed him to waivers last month, and reports are that multiple teams put in a claim. Clearly there are teams who believe he has some ability that they can unlock.
But Puig needs to learn to put in the work off the field in order to see success on it. If he does, it's likely he'll see his numbers, particularly against fastballs, become solid once again.
If he can do that, he can be a productive offensive player. But that is a very big if.