Cuban phenomenon Yasiel Puig launched himself onto the big league stage in 2013 with a colossal rookie campaign, eventually just missing out on Rookie of the Year. In only 104 games, the Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder compiled rather impressive statistics: 19 home runs, 42 runs batted in, 21 doubles and a .319/.391./534 slashline. What impressed the Dodgers the most though, was his .391 on base percentage, making him a perfect candidate to hit leadoff in 2014.
With Carl Crawford injured, Puig is ultimately the only leadoff candidate. Last year, when batting number one, he was at his best, launching 9 home runs and leading the league in home run rate from the leadoff spot. So, when the Dodgers travelled to play the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia for the opening series without Crawford, Puig hitting first was almost inevitable.
It makes sense, too. With Crawford’s numbers and speed diminishing with age, Puig provides the perfect replacement. He has power, speed and will become more patient. As he matures, his walks and consequentially his on-base percentage will rise and his caught stealing percentage will lower. Seemingly the perfect player to hit leadoff.
Despite the high hopes for Puig to excel in leadoff for the Dodgers, he had a miserable first game of the season in batting number one. He went 0-5 off a combination of Wade Miley, Will Harris, Brad Ziegler and J.J. Putz striking out three times. Despite the Dodgers historic win led by Clayton Kershaw, Puig won’t be too happy with his performance.
The Diamondbacks and Dodgers play again tonight in Sydney, and Don Mattingly will likely deploy Puig in leadoff once more. The world of baseball will watch to see if the Cuban can improve upon his abysmal first appearance.