Yasiel Puig might be the most polarizing player in major league baseball right now. Since making his MLB debut in June 2013, the 24-year-old Cuban defector’s off-the-field antics, such as repeatedly showing up late for games and displaying a questionable work ethic in the weight room, have angered fans and teammates alike. If you don’t believe me, just check out what some of his current and former teammates have to say about him. On the field, however, Puig has displayed the rare skill set of a five tool player – speed, power, the ability to hit for average, and throwing and fielding abilities. As fantasy baseball players, the first three skills (speed, power, contact) are the most pertinent, and Puig has certainly proven that he’s proficient in each of these key areas as a professional ball player.
Let’s take a look at his MLB career statistics to date:
Impressive production for a player who doesn’t turn 25 until December of 2015. Puig’s career .304/.386/.498 triple slash line is among the best in the game since 2013. His .884 OPS ranks 10th in MLB over that time period. As you can see in the above table, he’s improved his walk and strikeout rates across each season of his career thus far as well.
One major concern is that Puig’s power numbers have declined in each of the last two seasons. He’s hit as many home runs over the past year and a half combined as he did during his rookie season (19) while his ISO has steadily declined each year as well.
Perhaps Puig’s batted ball data will provide some insight into his power decline. Let’s take a look:
The good: Puig is hitting ground balls at a career-low 44.3% clip while his line drives are at an all-time high (22.7%). His infield fly rate is currently at a career-low 6.3% as well.
The bad: Puig’s soft hit percentage is at a career worst 22.7% (MLB average is 18.5 %), which is reflected in his career-low 9.4% home run to fly ball ratio as well.
Over the last calendar year, Puig’s offensive production has been somewhat comparable to two other established MLB veterans. Let’s take a look:
Again, these stats reflect those that have been accumulated over the past calendar year, from July 1st, 2014 through today. Raise your hand if you expected Puig to perform at a Hosmer/Zobrist-esque level over a full year’s time. Yeah, me neither. These comps might be slightly generous too, considering the RBI gap between Puig and the other two players.
Puig’s triple slash line looks terrific this season, and is in-line with his career averages. His plate discipline continues to improve. That’s all well and good. But the power is on a steep decline, and the steals have all but vanished. His 258.81 ft average fly ball distance in 2015 ranks 227th out of 252 MLB qualifiers below players such as Didi Gregorius and Nori Aoki, and he’s still looking for his first stolen base this season. Maybe the hamstring injury that required a recent trip to the disabled list is still an issue for him. Either way, it’s difficult to rely on Puig for the elite production that many thought they were getting (myself included) at the beginning of the season. In dynasty and OBP formats, hold him, but in standard redrafts, sell low if you can.