What Happened In 2017: The Wild Horse rode again. Yasiel Puig reclaimed his place among the best outfielders in baseball, both defensively and offensively.
Puig’s fifth season in the majors was a pivotal one both on and off the field. After a late-season month-long demotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City the year before, the 27-year-old outfielder rebounded to have a healthy and productive season in 2017.
Puig played in a career-high and team-leading 152 games, playing in right field for 145 of those. He arguably was the best defensive right-fielder in the National League with a 12.1 ultimate zone rating and was named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year among right fielders. A finalist for the NL Gold Glove Award for right-field, he was beaten by Chicago’s Jason Heyward. Both outfielders led the league in defensive runs saved (+18 runs).
After the snub, Puig vowed via Twitter to win the Gold Glove in 2018.
No matter what they do or how much they try to keep me from it. I will win a Gold Glove next year, I’m coming back for what I deserve.
— Yasiel Puig (@YasielPuig) November 8, 2017
Not taking anything away from Heyward, an elite right fielder, but Puig was absolutely incredible out there.
Joc Pederson suffered a concussion after the scary collision between the two outfielders in May, but Puig still managed to make this catch somehow.
Besides the epic catches and cannon throws, Puig also entertained by adding more quirky habits to his routine by licking his bat during his plate appearances and wagging his tongue at various moments.
The celebratory tongue gestures annoyed the opposition, but to be fair he did have a great year at the plate and showed some improvement on the base path. He stole a career-high 15 bases, second-most on the team behind Chris Taylor (17) and was tied with Milwaukee’s Domingo Santana for most swiped bags in the NL among right-fielders.
It wasn’t all good. Puig is still near the very bottom of the FanGraphs BsR leaderboard for the NL with a -7.6. It didn’t look as though Puig was that bad on the base paths, but he still made some blunders and hit into a career-high 21 double plays.
His base running may still be a work in progress, but offensively Puig improved in many categories and showed a lot more patience at the plate as evident from his 11.2% walk rate along with a decrease in strikeout percentage (17.5).
Puig continued his success into the postseason, and he came up with some clutch hits in all three of the Dodgers postseason series, including the World Series. He slashed .286/.365/.518 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in 14 games.
It wouldn’t be a real off-season without Puig drama. The Wasserman Agency cut ties with their client this month due to “behavioral issues.” The agent-less Puig doesn’t seem to care about finding new representation.
“I’m really not focused on that,” Puig said. “I wish them the best with what they do. But for now I’m just focusing on baseball.”
Focus and discipline have always been the toughest part of the learning process during assimilation into the United States for Puig since he defected from Cuba. With his third son on the way and his career with the Dodgers on a favorable path for the most part, Puig’s hopefully learned from his past mistakes and knows what he needs to do to be a productive and positive member of the Dodgers’ clubhouse going into the new season.
How’s this for positivity? Puig and Matt Kemp have squashed any old bad blood between the two outfielders and are getting along at Camelback Ranch.
— Chavez Ravine Fiends (@RavineFiends) February 14, 2018
2018 Status: In his final year of his 7-year, $42 million contract (before a final year of arbitration in 2019), Puig will continue to be the Dodgers’ everyday right fielder.