After Sunday's game against the Rockies, its easy to see something drastic needs to happen, and needs to happen soon if the Dodgers are going to keep their playoff hopes alive for the 2013 season. You hate to blame injuries as the leading cause of the recent struggles for the club, but its hard not to when only 2 of the Dodgers opening day starters made appearances in today's game, those players being Andre Ethier and Adrian González. As many of you already have read, the most recent Dodger to be a victim of the disabled list is our starting catcher, AJ Ellis with what is considered to be a minor oblique strain. The move was made not necessarily because the injury was severe enough to warrant the required 15 days, but more importantly to free up a spot on the 25-man roster. And with 2 catchers besides Ellis on the roster, that decision was really a no-brainer.
As I am writing this post, it has just been made official; Yasiel Puig has been called up and is now a member on the Los Angeles Dodgers roster. All I can say is, it's about time. I know management was a little gun-shy about promoting the Cuban sensation, but current trends lead me to believe the youngster has a great chance at flourishing with the big club. Many younger, while arguably more talented prospects, have been making an impact at the major league level at an alarming increased frequency over the past 2 seasons. A few prime examples of these call-ups include the 20 year-old Bryce Harper, 21 year-old Mike Trout, and 20 year-old Manny Machado. While its a bit early to compare the 22 year-old Puig to these young superstars, its not out of the question to think he can have a successful breakout performance early in his major league career. True, Puig is much more raw in terms of his baseball skills, compared to the more refined play of other young stars, but there's no denying his athletic ability which will help make up for any "polish" his game lacks. A current major league player that some look to as having the same style of play as Puig is fellow Cuban player, Yoenis Cespedes, outfielder for the Oakland Athletics. Coming into the league as a rookie last season, many questioned the abilities of Cespedes in the same way they are going to be questioning Puig. The talent is there, but what about the maturity and ability to adapt to adversity? As we saw as evidence of last years stats, Cespedes proved to be everything the A's had hoped he would be and more.
Puig grabbed the attention of many Dodger fans this year when he put on a hitting clinic during Spring Training, hitting at an unbelievable clip of .517/3HR/11RBIs in 27 games. Many thought he should have broken camp as a member of the big club, but the front office felt he needed more seasoning, and I have to say at that point in the season, I felt it was the right move. With a healthy Kemp, Ethier, and Crawford to patrol our outfield, it would have left little to no room for Puig to mature as a hitter without getting at-bats on a consistent basis.
Now, let's take a look at Puig's double-A stats up to this point in the season. His "traditional" stat line looks like this: .313/8HR/37RBI. As sabermetrics have become a bigger part of the game, let's take a look at some of his other stats that may be a better indication of how skilled the young outfielder may be. Let's take a look at his OPS. For those of you who don't know what OPS is, it is summation of adding a players on-base percentage to his slugging percentage. By combining these numbers, we get a statistic that tells us not only how successful a player is at getting on base per at bat, but also at what frequency these successful on base attempts go for extra bases. This season, Puig's OPS is .982. Now, I couldn't find the average OPS for a double-A player this season, but according to Bill James, one of the founding fathers of Sabermetrics, a player who maintains an OPS of .900 or higher throughout an entire major league season is considered to be in the top echelon of players, as he wrote in his essay "The 96 Families of Hitters". Obviously double-A isn't the Major Leagues, but its a promising sign for the young Cuban slugger, and should translate fairly well against more formidable pitching opponents. If we take a look at the last 10 games that Puig has appeared in, his stats prove to be even better than his 2013 averages, sporting a .355 average with 6 extra-base hits, 2 of those being homeruns, with an OPS of 1.131.
As a die-hard, dedicated Dodger fan, I cant help but be overly enthusiastic and excited about this recent roster move. While many around the baseball community may be skeptical about Puig and how well his minor league success will translate, I feel that the recent success of young players for other organizations across the league is a good sign of things to come. While you hate to put so much pressure on a rookie to come up and make an impact, the Dodgers organization and its fans really have no other choice at this point, as injuries have ravaged our roster and left us on life-support going forward this season. It may seem like things are getting desperate for our boys in blue, but I wouldn't count the Dodgers down and out just yet, as Yasiel Puig may have something to say about where we're headed over the remainder of the season.