To Puig Or Not to Puig (Plus Friday Lineups)

March 22, 2013 at 10:39 am | Posted in Yasiel Puig | Leave a comment

yasiel_puig_firstbase_springSo there’s this, from Yahoo’s Jeff Passan…

The Legend of Yasiel Puig is greater than The Truth of Yasiel Puig. The Legend plays like Bo Jackson. The Truth simply looks like Bo, a diesel 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds. The Legend hits .521 in spring training. The Truth understands spring-training statistics might as well be tabulated by Arthur Andersen. The Legend is an invincible athlete. The Truth lost three straight games of ping-pong Thursday to Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is the anti-athlete.

And then there’s this, from ESPN’s Keith Law…

Also: When you hear a player compared to Bo Jackson, just stop listening.

In this case, both are correct. Passan is right to be impressed — Puig is blowing the doors off of camp, wowing everyone and exceeding the wildest expectations that could have been set upon him. Again, he’s hitting .521/.500/.854 this spring, and even for a guy who puts absolutely zero relevance on spring stats, that’s absurd. It’s beyond absurd, it’s unlike anything we’ve really ever seen before and it’s exciting in a way that spring training rarely is.

But Law’s right, too. Puig’s not Bo Jackson. It’s ridiculous to be making that comparison — Jackson was a once-in-a-lifetime athletic specimen who nearly everyone on the planet drooled over. Puig’s a beyond-raw talent with limited athletic experience who has the potential to be great, but is probably not a true “five-tool player”. As much fun as this has been, we should all know by now not to act as though a few weeks of spring ball suddenly makes a player considerably different than he was before, and Puig is still an incredibly talented player with little pro experience who has significant concerns over plate discipline.

So what’s the right answer here? As far as I’m concerned, it hasn’t changed. It does no damage to start Puig in the minors, and in fact it only helps. It allows him to prove himself against pitchers who are actually trying to get him out — and while I appreciate Passan’s contention that Puig has done well against actual big league pitchers, simply saying “Mat Latos” was on the mound doesn’t say whether Latos was just working on his fastball that day — and it helps the Dodgers down the road with service time implications. Perhaps most importantly, as we’ve discussed before, it allows them to get a look at Carl Crawford and see what they have there. You don’t bring Puig up unless you’re prepared to play him every day, and you can’t do that and still see what Crawford can give.

Reds
Dodgers
CF
Heisey
DH
Crawford
2B
Phillips
SS
Gordon
1B
Votto
RF
Hairston
LF
Ludwick
1B
Gonzalez
RF
Bruce
3B
Cruz
3B
Frazier
CF
Puig
SS
Cozart
RF
Herrera
C
Mesoraco
C
A.Ellis
P
Leake
2B
Amezaga

Puig starts today in center field against Mike Leake and the Reds, hitting sixth, but there’s a lot happening in this game. Crawford is back atop the lineup at designated hitter — he is expected to play left field tomorrow, per the team. It’ll be the first time he plays the field as a Dodger.

This is also likely to be Clayton Kershaw‘s final full start in Arizona, and you’ll probably note that Dee Gordon is playing shortstop, with Luis Cruz pushed back to third. That’s not all that surprising since Gordon has missed the last few days with an ankle injury and they’ll obviously want to get him back on the field, though it’s worth noting that the Hanley Ramirez replacement plan hasn’t been fully finalized yet.

Today’s game is available on dodgers.com, the final of the eight scheduled webcasts for the spring.

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