Call this a deep thought. And it’s even one I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, so it’s a recycled deep thought. But given how the heat around Yasiel Puig is rising, I feel like it’s still timely.
Puig, the Dodgers’ young Cuban import, has been hitting the friggin’ cover off the ball this spring. He’s hitting .527/.509/.855 through 16 Cactus League games this spring, and despite the fact that the Dodgers’ outfield would appear to be set with Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, Puig is still on the big league roster so he may very well break camp with the team.
For a couple of weeks we’ve been hearing comparisons of Puig to other established stars like Vladimir Guerrero and physical beasts like Bo Jackson. Today Buster Olney has a big writeup on him which talks about some of that. There will be more in the coming days.
I also predict a bright future for Puig because he is so damn strong and big and fast and, at this point in his career, defensively versatile. Seeing him rake in the multiple Dodgers games I witnessed in Arizona in late February and early March was easily the highlight of my spring training trip, and the biggest baseball-related takeaway. He was quite impressive. But I also remember seeing him swing at fastballs in his eyes a lot and seeing him do is worst damage late in games against marginal pitching talent or when guys were behind in counts and had runners on base and just needed to get something over.
Which, hey, to be an awesome hitter you have to hit slop too. But I also feel like major league pitching has something pretty harsh in store for him at first. Specifically, lots of stuff out of the strike zone which he has to show he won’t offer at all the time. The kind of stuff you simply don’t see a ton of in spring training, at least not early. Puig may very well have his own adjustments in store too. He may anticipate that no one will give him good stuff to hit, he may exceed expectations and make a giant splash once the bell rings. But I’m a bit skeptical right now.
I’m not hating on him. Just saying that, if Puig is to be a big star, as I feel he could be, it could take a while, that’s all. He’s green.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.