There is no doubt Yasiel Puig’s toolbox is full and, at 6’3″ and 245 lbs., he’s an impressive athletic specimen. But there are concerns about how bright his star will shine going forward. There are some red flags that may suggest something less than super-stardom.
Puig stormed onto the scene with a historically high batting average on balls in play and impressive athleticism. In June his BABIP was .500. On the season he has the highest BABIP in the game among players with at least 350 plate appearances.
Puig has walked in just over 8 percent of his plate appearances while striking out in just over 22 percent. But there is no doubting his strength and athleticism, so he’s the type player that could add plenty of value without an overly patient approach at the plate.
The player I come back to as a comp for Puig is Hunter Pence. Pence is a big, athletic corner-outfielder; he’s a bit of a hacker who doesn’t walk at a very high rate; he appears to play recklessly at times (maybe that’s just because he looks so funny doing it); and he displays plenty of impressive tools.
Maybe I’m being a bit too skeptical of Puig’s approach and how much it might hold him back. But I’m thinking Pence is about right. Pence is a first-division player and in his best season, 2011, he was on the cusp of being in the MVP conversation. This year, according to Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement, Pence has been one of the top six offensive players in the National League. Pence is also a high BABIP guy.
The more digging, the more I think Pence may be slightly underrated and overlooked. On the surface it may seem like a Pence comparison is selling Puig short, considering Puig has an OPS+ near 170 this season. But it doesn’t take a knowledge of advanced metrics to understand he’s not likely to maintain a batting average over .330 with an on-base over .400 and a slugging over .540. And Pence has now played 7 seasons in the big leagues with an OPS+ of 120. If Puig settles into that kind of player, with the excitement he brings, I’m sure the Dodgers will take it.