It was looking like there was no hope for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then Yasiel Puig joined the team earlier this week and has made an instant impact on the Dodgers. The team has won three of their last four games, since Puig joined the team on Monday.
The Dodgers have won three of their last four games, but have yet to win more than two games in a row. Puig could change all that if his hitting becomes contagious. He hit a grand slam last night to insure a Dodgers victory, in a 5-0 win over the Braves.
Puig is 7-16 after four games and is hitting .438, has an OBP of .438, slugging 1.063 and has posted an OPS of 1.500. It would not be surprising to see Puig named NL Player of the Week, after his first week in the majors. Driving in nine runs from the leadoff spot is virtually unheard of. There is no reason for Puig to start each game with no runners on base, with his kind of run production.
The 6′ 3″ Puig weighs 215 pounds and won’t be 23 till December 7 according to ESPN.com, but MLB.com list him as weighing 245 pounds. The Dodgers only have four outfielders in the outfield now in Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Puig. Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp are both on the disabled list presently. I look for the Dodgers to go back to five outfielders, upon the return of Kemp and Crawford, which means Van Slyke, Hairston and Puig would be vying for the fourth and fifth outfield spots. It seems like the logical move would be to reassign or release Hairston since Van Slyke is second on Dodgers in home runs with six. Van Slyke has hit his six home runs in only 58 AB’s.
Puig has played in only 63 minor league games and only 40 games past Rookie and A+ baseball. His career minor league stats are astounding with a .328 lifetime average, .405 OBP, .611 SLG and 1.016 OPS.
Main problem for Dodgers would be to find more playing time for Puig after Crawford and Kemp return. Don Mattingly may have to bench Ethier to find playing time for Puig. Skip Schumaker, the backup second baseman also plays some outfield, but may see very little playing time in the outfield, once everyone returns from the disabled list. Puig has 13 HR’s and 52 RBI’s in 262 plate appearances, which is about a half of season of at-bats.
We don’t know the future of Puig over the long run, but right now he is showing us that he can play major league baseball at a high level.
With Zack Greinke back in the rotation the Dodgers could see a reversal in fortune, with both Kershaw and Greinke pitching every fifth day. However, Kershaw has only posted one win since May 14.
Dodgers have three home games against Atlanta and three against Arizona left in this homestand. Then Puig will get a real test, when the Dodgers travel to Pittsburgh for three games, then play the Yankees in Yankee Stadium two games and then finish off the road trip, with four games in San Diego. It will be interesting to see where Puig is at after the long nine game road trip.
Personally, I think Puig can handle the stress of being on the road and away from the Dodger fans, who have been very supportive of him in his first week in the majors. Only time will tell how Puig will handle his first slump, but for right now Dodger fans are enjoying every minute of every game with Puig in the lineup.
37,055 Dodger fans showed on Monday night for Puig’s debut, but the crowd has increased each successive night, from 37,544 on Tuesday to 40,040 on Wednesday and the 44,196 that saw last night’s game. The weekend crowds should be even larger and that is music to the ears of Magic Johnson, who has to be enjoying the Dodgers resurgence, but he won’t really be happy till the Dodgers start moving up in the standings.
Don Mattingly knows his future as Dodgers manager may depend on Puig and the others scoring more runs, since the Dodgers are 27th in MLB, in runs scored with 213.
There is no way the Dodgers would send Puig down and keep Hairston on the roster. Puig may not stay this hot long, but now he and the Dodgers both know he can hit at the major league level. Puig has played in only four games, yet he is 5th in home runs on the team with three. He has already passed everyday players in home runs, surpassing the totals of Matt Kemp, A.J. Ellis, Mark Ellis and Nick Punto.