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.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.