While Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was at the center of attention on Monday morning because he was moonlighting as a barista at a local Coffee Bean to begin the team’s Love L.A. Community Tour, the 26-year-old also let his desire for the 2017 season be known.
Making no bones about it, Puig said he wants to be an everyday starter, “whether it’s here or somewhere else.”
While there’s been plenty of speculation about Puig’s future with the Dodgers, from trade rumors with the Milwaukee Brewers to his demotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, it stands to reason that he’d be the starting right fielder this year if he remained with the club. But Puig doesn’t seem to believe that’s a given, and that may not be such a bad thing.
After exploding onto the scene in 2013 and an All-Star caliber season in 2014, Puig’s production has fallen off dramatically. He missed most of 2015 due to injuries and wasn’t great when he was healthy.
Then, last season, he posted a 94 wRC+ before the All-Star break and spent August in OKC. He did recover after being recalled in September, finishing the season strong.
So, which Puig are the Dodgers getting in 2017? The injury-prone, underperformer or the exhilarating Wild Horse? That’s up to him, but the Dodgers could nudge Puig by not simply handing him the right field job this spring.
The only certainty in the Dodgers’ outfield this upcoming season is Joc Pederson. There are at least five contenders for the two remaining corner spots: Andre Ethier, Puig, Andrew Toles, Trayce Thompson and Scott Van Slyke.
Toles’ strong rookie campaign has earned him a long look during Spring Training, while Ethier, Thompson, and Van Slyke need to prove they’re healthy.
Obviously, Puig should be the starter in right field, with some combination of the remaining outfielders in left. But the knowledge that he has to earn it and the fact that there will be backups nipping at his heels could coax him into returning to that 2013-2014 form.
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