The rankings for Yasiel Puig are all over the place this year. The typical range I have seen is from OF 25-OF 35 which on the surface seems insane considering Puig is coming off a year in which he was a consensus top 15 pick. It makes sense that he has slipped given that he put up 11 HR, 30 R, 38 RBI, 3 SB, a .255 AVG and a .322 OBP in 79 games last year. If we prorate that over 150 games it jumps up to 21 HR, 57 R, 72 RBI, and 6 SB and immediately he goes from a terrible year to a pretty good one. He had hamstring issues virtually all year that caused him to miss so many games, but a full offseason to heal should leave behind any worries of continued problems. He plays recklessly so injuries are to be expected, but I wouldn’t worry about the ones he suffered last year playing spoiler on his 2016 season.
I’ve never really liked Yasiel Puig and I’ve never owned him. I always thought the hype was much greater than the output. I always thought the average was bolstered by luck given his lack of a true line drive batted ball profile (career 16.6 LD%). I was also never sure he was going to develop his power to the point where it was worth the high price. However I think we have finally reached the sweet spot where I am willing to draft Puig and potentially willing to go out and acquire him. Keep in mind that he just turned 25 years old. He should have several years of peak value left.
Puig has always been an elite AVG and OBP guy. Last year he dropped a .255 AVG and a.322 OBP which were 41 and 60 points below his prior career low respectively. This can be explained by one thing: his BABIP plummeting from .356 in 2014 to .296. .356 might seem like an unreasonably high BABIP, and it probably was. Puig was always closer to a true .290 hitter than a .300 hitter (due to the lower LD%). However, last year seems like a crazy over correction. This is a guy who has a fair amount of speed and hits hard balls at an above average rate. It’s not unreasonable to expect a high BABIP with a guy with Puig’s talent and athleticism. It wouldn’t surprise me if .255 is the lowest single season BA of Puig’s career.
Puig’s other counting stats (HR, R and RBI) seemed down but that was purely because of lack of games played. The only stat that took a major nosedive was steals. Puig had gotten to 11 in his previous two MLB seasons and only managed six attempts all year. It’s reasonable to make the case that his hamstring injury contributed to his lack of willingness to steal bases. He has never had a high success rate in stealing bases, but this is a guy who by pure athleticism alone should run into double digit steals every year that he is healthy.
The last big plus going for Puig is that Donny Baseball is no longer the manager of the Dodgers. It was no secret that Mattingly wasn’t the biggest fan of Puig and I can’t imagine Puig had much support from the managerial staff. It sure can’t be fun to play baseball in that environment. Much like Bryce Harper, Puig needs a manager who is willing to let him play and be himself. We just saw what can happen when a manager allows his superstar OF to just go out and play. I don’t think Puig is going to come close to what Harper just did, but if Puig is allowed to just go out and play, I see a big bounce back coming.
Puig is going to be a draft day bargain and this should finally be the year that he breaks the 20/10 mark. Throw in a good average and what should amount to a good R and RBI total and we’re talking a potential top 10 or top 15 OF who is going significantly lower than that. By no means would I take Puig in the top 20 overall, but as we get into the 40s and 50s, depending on the landscape I’d probably grab him. It’s a risky pick given his playstyle but the payoff potential here is extremely large. If Puig does manage to realize his full power potential, we could be talking about a potential monster which is what he was supposed to be n 2015.
Steamer is giving Puig 22 HR, 78 R, 73 RBI, 10 SB, a .287 AVG and a .361 OBP. I like all of those but I’ll go a bit further even giving Puig 25 HR, 83 R, 77 RBI, 13 SB, a .286 AVG and a .370 OBP.