Don Mattingly: Yasiel Puig “hasn’t proven himself to be an RBI guy yet”

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There are valid reasons for the Dodgers to bat Yasiel Puig leadoff this season, but this logic from manager Don Mattingly is interesting:

According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Mattingly feels that Puig needs to be more calm in RBI situations like veterans Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez. To be fair, Puig didn’t get much of a chance to test himself as a rookie last year, as he only received 90 plate appearances with runners in scoring position while mostly hitting in the first two spots in the order. Puig hit .234/.374/.416 with four home runs, 16 RBI, and a 19/16 K/BB ratio with runners in scoring position, so he didn’t produce as much in those situations as he did in others, but production with runners in scoring position often varies from year to year and it isn’t necessarily predictive or indicative of a particular skill. Earning the reputation as an “RBI guy” is more about placement in the batting order than anything else. For now, it seems, Puig will remain near the top of the lineup.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.