After a strong rookie year, Yasiel Puig’s 2014 season has thus far shown no signs of a sophomore slump. The right fielder leads the team in multiple offensive statistics that includes an impressive 1.065 OPS, which is good for second in MLB.
In a season that the Los Angeles Dodgers have struggled to play well on a consistent basis, Puig has been immune to the outfield rotation and one of the few reliable bats in the lineup.
Heading into Thursday’s game with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Puig has reached safely in the last 19 of 20 games and according to ESPN Stats and Info, he’s one of just six players to have a .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage at the age of 23. He also had a 16-game hitting streak through roughly the first two weeks of May.
Manager Don Mattingly previously discussed Puig’s growth and maturity, and more recently proclaimed him to be the best right fielder in the game, which has led to the Dodgers’ hesitation to move him into right field.
Mattingly was on ESPN radio’s The Herd With Colin Cowherd Thursday morning and heaped more praise on his right fielder:
He’s taken off. This kid is an incredible talent and he still making mistakes here and there from overaggressiveness. It’s not like two steps forward and one step back, it’s been 10 steps forward and a step or two back now and then.
Puig’s maturation process has also included better decisions defensively and more discipline at the plate, particularly with runners in scoring position. In such situations, Puig is hitting .397 with 31 RBIs.
With Hanley Ramirez missing time due to calf soreness, Puig has found himself batting third in the Dodger lineup in the last six games. In those games, Puig is batting .450 with two RBIs, a plethora of extra-base hits and perhaps more impressively, five walks.
Puig is also on pace to shatter the 36 walks he had last season, currently sitting at 26 through 48 games played. The on-field production hasn’t exactly translated to more fanfare however, as Puig continues to get criticized for his bat flips and other expressions of emotion. As it pertains to the Dodgers, they’ve accepted what comes with Puig and in return he’s been their best player this season.
Dodgers Update: Yasiel Puig’s Hitting Streak, Maturity And Bat Flips