When Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene during his rookie season, it appeared as if the Cuban outfielder was about to turn into one of baseball's biggest stars. However, Puig has not been able to fully live up to the hype that surrounded him when he first arrived in the big leagues.
Puig saw a steady drop in production over his first four seasons in the big leagues. His struggles hit a all-time low during the 2016 season, and it appeared that his time in Los Angeles was running out.
During the second half of the 2016 season, the Dodgers attempted to trade the struggling phenom. They eventually decided to not trade Puig, and demoted him to Triple-A in an attempt to help him get back on track. The organization promoted Puig back to the big leagues to finish the season.
As the 2017 season is underway, Puig is making a lot of noise with his bat. In his first four games, the 26-year-old is hitting .417 (5-12 at the plate), including a league-leading three home runs.
Puig's early start to the season has reminded us that he is an electric player that could make a major impact on the field. Can Puig sustain this success and have a breakout 2017 season?
The Dodgers organization sure hopes so.
There are reasons to believe that this can finally be the year Puig lives up to his potential. Both Puig and the Dodgers will have to play their cards right if they want the outfielder to be successful moving forward.
For starters, Puig has been very patient at the plate. In 16 plate appearances, Puig has walked four times and only struck out once, and has been very disciplined at the plate.
When Puig struggles offensively, he often tends to swing at bad pitches out of the zone. Recently, he has been locked in at the plate, avoiding swinging at the pitches the pitchers set up for him to chase. His selective approach has helped his success, as he's making the most of the good pitches he's swinging at.
Along with his plate discipline, Puig has to find a way to get his power numbers back up. In his rookie campaign, the 26-year-old slugged 19 home runs, but his power numbers have diminished since. In an interview with Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times, Puig stated that he thinks about putting the ball in the air, adding that he will have no money in his pocket if he fails to do so.
Puig's small power surge early this season is definitely encouraging. After only hitting 11 home runs in 2016, the Dodgers would love to see his power numbers rise back up.
On the Dodgers' end, manager Dave Roberts can play a big role in helping Puig regain his form. Puig has found success hitting in the bottom half of the order, and Roberts has done a nice job putting him in places in the lineup where he can succeed. Puig struggled when he hit towards the top of the order, but hitting in the lower half could relieve some of the pressure off his shoulders. Roberts should continue to mix-and-match to put Puig in situations that benefit him and his talents.
Ultimately, consistency will be the key for Puig moving forward. He has definitely shown flashes of the outstanding player he could be, but he has yet found a way to sustain his success. Good, productive series are always nice, but the Dodgers are hopeful that he can continue his success at the plate over an extended period of time.
If the Dodgers want to compete in the National League, it would be a huge boost to have Puig playing at the level he is capable of. It's a small sample size thus far, but the early signs show that Yasiel Puig could be headed towards a bounce back season in 2017.