From The Fantasy Oracle

2014 Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig is as exciting as an young player in baseball. He's also got a lot maturing to do before he can be considered an elite fantasy option.

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2014 Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: Yasiel Puig | Slide - 1 FantasyAlarm.com

Last year it was Mike Trout and could he repeat his previous season of excellence (he basically did). This year the “it” player is Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers. Can the man who electrified audiences last year maintain his elite level of production over an entire season? Can he learn some patience at the dish? Will he gradually learn how to lift the ball? Can he learn to obey the speed limit while driving his sports car? Let's investigate.

What can you expect to see in The Draft Guide this year? There are more indepth pieces on players like this article on Puig. In fact, here's part of the Chris Davis piece to wet your whistle.

POSITIVE

Here are some of the amazing things that Puig was able to put forth in 2013.

He had 44 hits in his first month of action, the second highest mark of all-time (Joe DiMaggio was the only one to better the mark).

Puig hit .373 with a 1.025 OPS in his first 62 games as the Dodgers went 44-18. The Dodgers had a .418 winning percentage and were 8.5 games out of first place when he was called up. They went on to win the NL West by 11 games.

Puig mashed the first pitch he saw like few others ever have. Puig hit .551 with a 1.642 OPS when he put the first pitch in play (69 at-bats). That OPS on the first pitch was the third highest of the last 25 years with only Jim Edmonds in 2004 and Gary Sheffield in 2000 bettering it.

Puig went 42-for-100, a .420 average, in the at-bats he had with no one on base and no outs.

Puig crushed lefties batting .340 with a 1.001 OPS (103 at-bats).

Puig batted .352 against fastball and .360 against changeups. Puig also batted a major-league best .406 when he faced a breaking ball.

Puig hit .360 with a 1.006 OPS at home.

He finished second to Jose Fernandez for the NL Rookie of the Year Award.

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2014 Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: Yasiel Puig | Slide - 2 FantasyAlarm.com

NEGATIVE

Now to some of the bad and, rather amazingly, there is a good deal of negative with a guy who was so effective last season.

Because of all his success on the first pitch, you know he wasn't as effective a batter as the count deepened. It might shock you how bad things got when he wasn't putting that first pitch in play (only two batters swung at the first pitch more frequently than his 68 percent rate – Freddie Freeman and Carlos Gomez). In the 313 at-bats that didn't end on the first pitch Puig batted .268. Given the inescapable fact that Puig was sitting on first pitches and hammering them if they came in the question has to become – why on earth would any hurler toss this guy a strike on the first pitch? Totally befuddling to me. Pitchers – do NOT throw a strike on the first pitch to Puig. If you can get past that first pitcher he becomes an average hitter. To reiterate, Puig hit .551 with nine homers when he put the first pitch in play (69 at-bats). The other 313 at-bats he had Puig hit .268 with 10 homers. Look at those numbers again. On the first pitch he was a video game player. On the second pitch onward he was Kendrys Morales. Think about that last sentence for a while.

Here's some data to further that first pitch concern. Below is the SLG for Puig on pitches 1-4 and then at-bats that went five or more pitches. With each successive pitch Puig's production declined – significantly (the league average SLG is listed in parenthesis).

Pitch 1: 1.072 (.541)
Pitch 2: .769 (.516)
Pitch 3: .412 (.397)
Pitch 4: .353 (.340)
Pitch 5+: .287 (.323)

Look closely at that table. Puig nearly doubled the league average SLG on pitch one. He blows past the league average on the second pitch as well. Then it gets dicey. Puig was league average on pitch three and four, and in those at-bats that went five or more pitches Puig was worse than the league average. Again pitchers – do not throw this man hittable pitches early in in the count. Wait Puig out.

Though Puig hit lefties very well, he killed them actually (.340/.419/.583), there was an area in which he struggled against portsiders. When lefties threw the ball up in the zone Puig hit .238 and not a single extra base hit. Pitchers, are you listening?

Puig swing and missed more than any other right-handed batter in baseball from the day he debuted until the end of the season.

Puig had the 12th worst chase rate of any right-handed batter in baseball from the day he debuted.

Puig chased breaking balls out of the strike zone at the 4th highest rate of any player in baseball from the day he debuted. Pitchers were walking a fine line here. When that breaking ball was in the strike zone Puig mashed to the tune of a .406 average, the best in baseball. However when they got him to chase breaking balls outside the strike zone he hit just .098.

Puig hit .234 with a runners in scoring position (77 at-bats).

With men on base and two outs Puig hit .219 (73 at-bats).

There's still more to talk about with Puig but before we get to that...

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2014 Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: Yasiel Puig | Slide - 3 FantasyAlarm.com

JACK IN THE BOX

I know that you're thinking this article is way too long... just get to the point Ray? Is that kinda like you feel on a Saturday night after partying? You know, when your belly is rumbling saying feed me? In a personal endorsement that I don't get paid a penny for, what about trying Jack's Munchie Meals?

Now let's get back to Puig.

 

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So you're thinking to yourself that (A) Ray hates the Dodgers, (B) Ray hates foreign born players, (C) Ray hates young players or (D) Ray hates Puig because he's a moron off the field. The only one that is true is (A) – I do hate the Dodgers (my grandfather literally brought to the hospital, the day I was born, a Giants hat. As a lifelong Bay Area resident, my hatred for the Dodgers is real. Truth be told, they are about the only thing that I hate in this world, other than onions). The simple fact is that I'm trying to keep things real with Puig. I don't think enough people do that. We all want to believe the best in everyone, that every young player will improve, that ever talent will shine through to the limits of their ability. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't. In the case of Puig there's a lot of work to do, that's why I'm down on him. Some facts on Puig.

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(1) He's got elite talent.

(2) He does some things exceedingly well. The guy mashed last year hitting .319 with a .925 OPS, and you can't do that unless you were blessed with talent.

(3) He's immature on the field and off it. He needs a life coach to help him out off the field, and he needs to listen to the veterans the Dodgers have so that he can learn the “right” way to play the game.

(4) There are certain markers of a young player that needs to develop. Let me list a few that I didn't note in detail previously.

Puig walked only 36 times in 432 plate appearances. That's awful. Carlos Santana walked 20 times in September and 35 times over the last two months of the season. Six of the walks for Puig were intentional by the way. He must learn to take pitches (you must have came to that same conclusion after reading my earlier thoughts on Puig).

Puig struck out 97 times. People strike out a ton anymore, I get it, but once every 3.98 at-bats is not an impressive rate, not in the least. The resulting 0.37 BB/K rate was worse than the league average of 0.40 from 2013. This doesn't speak well to those who are hoping Puig bats .300. Another concern for Puig is the fact that he posted a .383 BABIP. That's a massive number. It's coming down in 2014. There's also this. Puig posted a 19.1 percent line drive rate in 2013. The league average mark is usually about 20 percent. That's not the mark of a guy who is consistently going to hit .300, at least in most cases.

What about the homers? Puig hit 19 last season, and if he kept up that pace over 550 at-bats he would go deep 27 times. That's a solid number, but nowhere near elite. Moreover, his batted ball chart from last season suggests caution if you expect him to exceed that level of production in 2014. Puig simply doesn't lift the ball enough. Last season he had a ground ball rate of 50.2 percent. You know who else had a mark like that? Try Starlin Castro (50.7), Jon Jay (50.5) and Zack Cozart (50.3). Those guys seem like power hitters to you? With so many grounders how did Puig hit so many homers last season? Look no further than his 21.8 percent HR/F ratio. That mark was the same as Giancarlo Stanton and the 7th best mark in baseball among guys with at least 400 plate appearances. Chances are pretty good that his HR/F ratio will dip in 2014.

What about Puig's work on the base paths? Puig stole 11 bases but was caught eight times. That's a 58 percent success rate. Studies have shown that if you are successful on less than 67 percent of your steal attempts that you are actually harming your teams ability to score runs. Puig was a net negative on the base paths last season. That begs the question; will the Dodgers give Puig the stop sign at times in 2014? Only one player in the NL with less than 11 steals was caught more (Gerardo Parra was caught 10 times in 20 attempts). Puig must get better with his success rate.

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CONCLUSION

My prediction is that Puig will be overdrafted in the vast majority of leagues in 2014. He'll produce solid numbers, he's simply too talented not to, but I fear that most folks will be disappointed with his overall numbers and regret spending that top-25 overall selection on him that many will.

Puig has batting average issues. It's extremely unlikely that he will hit .319 again. It's also unlikely that he will hit .300 in 2014.

Puig has homer concerns. If he offers a repeat of last season in the GB/FB ratio he will be hard pressed to hit more than 25 homers. That would disappoint people.

Puig has run production concerns. The Dodgers seem interested in batting him in the leadoff spot. If his average regresses and his walk rate stays low, his OBP isn't going to light the world on fire. He would still score runs, but you could forget about a big RBI mark (folks may have missed that Puig had only 42 RBIs last season in 104 games).

Puig has stolen base concerns. A 58 percent stolen base rate is pathetic.

Finally there's his overall approach. Puig has to take more pitches. Pitchers and teams aren't totally bereft of intelligence, so one would expect Puig to see a steady diet of pitches outside the strike zone or on the fringe of it early in the count. If he doesn't learn a bit of patience, pitcher's could gain the upper hand.

I don't have Puig as a top-25 player. I don't even have Puig as a top-10 outfielder (you can find more of my rankings, not just of Puig but of over 600 players, in the 2014 Fantasy Alarm Draft Guide). I'd take Puig on my team, but it's just not going to happen. Someone in every league I'm in will surely tab Puig as worth drafting before I do. I'd encourage you to think long an hard about whether or not you want to be me or the other fella in this scenario. Maybe I'll be wrong and Puig will be a superstar, but if he isn't that will likely mean that many drafted Puig a bit too early in 2014.


By Ray Flowers


COMMENTS

  • 64x64

    costaricanchata 14 Feb 09:22 / Reply

    time to learn how to cook , Ray .


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