When Yasiel Puig joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in June 2013 for his MLB debut, he dazzled in right field and at the plate. An extraordinary first month in the Majors set the bar at what turned out an unrealistic level.
He did put together an All-Star campaign in 2014, but battled injuries over each of the next two seasons and regressed at the plate. There were also issues with Puig’s focus, work ethic and presence in the clubhouse.
He seemingly hit rock bottom last August when the Dodgers optioned Puig to Triple-A Oklahoma City after failing to move him at the non-waiver trade deadline. Puig returned with an improved mindset that carried into this season.
Not only has he made strides in the batter’s box, but also to become a more complete right fielder. All the while Puig has continued to make the spectacular look routine, whether with his glove or arm.
During a recent interview with Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times, Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi championed Puig :
“I think he’s got to be the odds-on favorite,” Zaidi said. “He’s made spectacular plays. He’s made spectacular plays that haven’t made the highlights because he’s made them look routine. He’s obviously made huge plays with his arm. On singles to right field that are routine first-to-third plays, guys just pull up at second and don’t even think about testing him. That’s another aspect of his defense that doesn’t always get appreciated.”
Puig leads all qualified National League right fielders with a 5.4 Defensive Runs Above Average (DEF). Jason Heyward of the Chicago Cubs is second at 2.6. Puig also leads said players with 16 Defensive Runs Saved, an 11.1 Universal Zone Rating and 15.4 UZR/150.
Puig’s 1,109.2 innings logged in right field are third-most among NL players. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts previously lauded Puig as arguably the best defensive right fielder and said consideration for a Gold Glove Award was warranted.
Should Puig win the award, it would be the first of his career. He’d be the first Dodgers player since Andre Ethier in 2011 to win a Gold Glove.